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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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This is the second in a new series set in Rome and featuring Commissioner Alec Blume, an American born Italian citizen who remained in Italy after his parents died and who joined the police and has risen through the ranks. Not quite the usual maverick we come to expect in detective stories, but with a will of his own and an integrity and way of doing things that is not always popular. A body is discovered in the Piazza de Renzi early one morning - he is the local drunk and as he has not been robbed, it would appear a tragic but unsurprising accident. Needless to say it proves to be anything but and when it is discovered that the dead man is a painter and a master forger of old masters, then more investigation is needed. Blume discovers notebooks in the dead man's studio in which secrets which have been hidden for years are about to be revealed, including the fact that the forger and his business partner once cheated the Mafia by selling them a forged painting.

Twists and turns and devious characters including one Colonel Farinelli of the art fraud department of the Questore who is more involved than he cares to admit, and is very keen indeed to track down and destroy the notebooks.

A lot of detailed description of how a forger works, the tricks he uses to recreate the aged paper and the pigments of the paint and all fascinating, as are the extracts from the hidden notebooks. Took me a while to get into The Fatal Touch but once I did I really enjoyed it. Hope this series of novels runs and runs
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on 23 July 2013
As a fan of many Italian detective series ( including Montalbano, Brunetti and Zen) I find this - my first - Alec Blume book confusing. The story is a bit too far fetched, the use of "Commissioner" for Blume is wrong: he is obviously a Commissario", equivalent to a Chief Inspector. A Commissioner in Italy is a much higher rank! Proof reading is pretty poor: oddly there are several omissions of capital letters on personal names, especially and very oddly in the first line of several chapters. I shall try another Blume book but doubt that I will collect complete series as i have in the above named authors.
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on 20 May 2014
Having read Fitzgerald's first novel (The Dogs of Rome) a year ago, and having thoroughly enjoyed the style and humour, I've read his subsequent three novels back to back over the last month. They don't disappoint.

Fitzgerald doesn't suffer from 'that difficult second album' syndrome. Rather, he skilfully and entertainingly develops his protagonist, Blume, alongside a well researched plot involving art forgery/imitation. The former is very believable, the latter fascinating, with a very satisfying conclusion. This is crime literature of a high order. Wholeheartedly recommended.
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This is the second outing for Commissare Alec Blume. Once again Conor Fitzgerald has managed to create a perfectly credible picture of the Roman crime scene and police showing the rivalry between the ordinary civilian cop and the military Carabiniere. I have no idea whether it is realistic or not, but that doesn't matter. It feels real and Alec Blume feels real and one cares what happens to him and in this story quite a lot of things do happen to him, few pleasant and some with long lasting consequences.

For those of you who have not read The Dogs of Rome (you should), Commissare Alec Blume is somewhat of an outsider, not because he is a maverick cop (etc. etc.), but because he is an American who was orphaned in Italy as a teenager, so his slight detachment from his peers has a solid and believable reason. After his last adventures, his conduct is being observed, not very subtly, by the powers that be.

There is a spate of muggings targeting foreign visitors that needs sorting and a potentially more interesting suspicious death of a tramp. The tramp turns out to be an alcoholic Irish restorer/forger and suddenly the Carabiniere are interested. Officially Blume is removed as leading investigator of the case, although side issues allow him still to be involved. It soon becomes obvious that senior authorities are thwarting his attempts to be part of the investigation. Why??!!

We meet familiar characters from the previous book and several intriguing new characters. Blume is a dogged and determined investigator who can be lured into bloody-mindedness which can have disastrous consequences for himself and other major characters. No one is safe and this uncertainty and sense of danger keeps the reader on their toes.

I really enjoyed this book. It works as a stand-alone novel, but, if you haven't already, read the Dogs of Rome as well. I eagerly await the next book, due out next spring, I believe.
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on 9 May 2012
The Fatal Touch has a lot going for it. It has a strong, intricate plot, with a disparate range of characters and several cleverly interwoven strands. It is clearly based on a lot of research around art forgery and the art world, and procedurally it seems realistic. The narrative is culturally sensitive and portrays a good sense of place with respect to Rome. And it is generally very well written with some lovely prose. The notebooks of Henry Treacy are particularly nicely drafted. Despite all the good stuff, I do however have two concerns. The first is that the novel is overly long. My sense is that a good ten thousand words, and probably twice that, could be cut from the script and a reader would not notice. In fact, it would increase the tension a little and make the book more of a page turner. As it is, the start is slow and it takes a while to get going and there is a lot of superfluous description and dialogue, much of it nicely written, but not needed for the story. Second, Alec Blume seemed a little characterless to me. As the leading character, I never got the sense as to what made him tick or felt there was any real depth or range to him. It's almost as if he's a blank foil for more colourful characters surrounding him. Overall though The Fatal Touch is a very competent police procedural, with loads of technical and procedural detail, and an enjoyable plot.
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on 19 September 2011
"The Fatal Touch" is Conor Fitzgerald's second book in the Commissioner Alec Blume series, and a rather good mystery it is, with an intriguing focus on the world of fine art--production, reproduction and sales.

Blume is an unlikely Commissario of the Rome (as in Italy) Police, making him the fictional southern confrere of the equally fictional Guido Brunetti. His presence and position in Rome are explained in some detail by the author as the story unfolds. Overall though, his character gets somewhat shorter shrift than was the case in his debut in "Dogs of Rome", and there are other players in this story that come across as more interesting, real, scary, etc.

And the story in this case has an intriguing plot that opens with the death of an art forger who specialized in producing Renaissance and Baroque master drawings for sale to gullible, and usually greedy, collectors. As Commissario Blume delves into the forger's death, he quickly finds that it leads into a messy mix of artistic misdeed, betrayal, broken relationships and connections with some of the most unsavory government officials in the country.

One such unpleasant character is the off-the-charts unscrupulous Colonel Farinelli of the Art Theft Division of the Carabinieri, who it will turn out, had been a partner in crime with the deceased forger. Author Fitzgerald invests a great deal of time and detail to bring this character into focus, and succeeds in presenting the reader with a menacing vision of the older Orson Wells in "Touch of Evil" (my impression at least).

Another character in this story who is rather skillfully developed is Inspector Caterina Matteolii, who seems destined to become Commissario Blume's better professional half. Caterini is a solid and credible character who brings real interest to the book.

"The Fatal Touch" has an engrossing plot, a fair amount of action and a really terrific villain, who is as smart as he is ruthless. Good read for any mystery lover, but if you are also interested in Italy and fine art, you will get a great kick from this work. Recommended.
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on 7 March 2012
I'd recommend reading the first novel in the series (The dogs of Rome) first, because it establishes the main character and his environment nicely. This, the second book in the series, rather assumes prior knowledge. The author is able to convey the flavour of the Rome police department, and of the city, without resorting to extended flowery descriptions and most of the characters (but not all) come to life nicely. The plot, about art forgery, is unusual and nicely expressed, although at times during the book you wonder where it's going since it seems to go off on a tangent rather. You need to concentrate because there are many different Italian police rankings to get to grips with, but it's worth it. It's a stylish and satisfying read and the main character, Alec Blume, is strangely likeable. Recommended.
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I read the first book in this series a few years ago and wasn't that impressed as I found it long and quite boring. I thought I would give the series another go when The Fatal Touch was on the daily deal. I didn't find this book boring but rather interesting in it's portrayal of modern day Roman policing. The plot seemed a bit fantastical to me - a corrupt carabinieri doing exactly as he pleased with no one able to stop him and art forgery (I don't want to say any more) - but it may be truer to life than I can imagine. It is a plot driven novel because there is very little by way of characterisation, mostly just stereotypes like the working mum, the lazy cop etc but then it's a thriller so you don't notice it so much. This book will not be in my re-read pile but it kept me turning the pages till the end.
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on 29 July 2013
Unlike the other Italian crime series I've read in the past, Andrea Camilleri' Montalbano, Donna Leon and her Commissario Brunetti, Conor Fitzgerald's Blume, although set in Rome could be the outsider/off beat cop in any country or city. The sense of place brought so vividly to the reader by the others is just missing. This leaves you with the stories and characters dependent almost entirely on the writing alone to carry the plot along. Commissario Alec Blume is basically not a very likeable character but in his odd ball way the stories progress through interaction with some not very believable twists and turns to a reasonable conclusion. The other supporting characters sometimes seem to fall into Italian and American stereotypes. Still an ok read in this style of novel.
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on 3 August 2013
As my introduction to the irascible Commissario Bume and his long suffering side kick this was a great novel to get into. The action was paced nicely and the revelations came in easy to follow gobbets. Fitzgerald fits a great deal of Art History into this novel although I would not recommend some of his aging technique at home if planning on setting up a forging business. The main character that we learn a great deal about endears himself upon one in spite of being very dead from the first moment we encounter him. A lovable rogue who means no harm but with hidden depths. A good read...so good I am reading the third in the series now...I might get round to number one as it is on the Kindle already and waiting.
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