Death in August

Written by Marco Vichi Stephen Sartarelli (trans.)
Review by Judith Starkston

Set in Florence in 1963, this murder mystery offers the delights and peculiarities of Italy. As the city melts in August heat, Inspector Bordelli languidly uncovers who killed a wealthy signora in her villa, all while consuming delicious food, copious alcohol and cigarettes, and pondering philosophically. The personality of Bordelli holds most of our interest—single, lonely, haunted by his experiences in WWII, professionally well-respected, and beloved by the petty criminals he’s befriended. On some level, he represents the conscience of post-war Italy. He’s disdainful of the bureaucrats and politicians and mindful of social injustices. He connects with outcasts and offbeat people, and the book is populated with bizarre human beings, all quite entertaining. The crime – not so much a who-done-it as a how-done-it – puzzles enough to draw the reader along. The solution is ingenious, and somehow I can’t see anyone but an Italian inspector figuring it out. For lovers of Donna Leon, here’s a new author to gobble up. This is a translation, first of four books already out in Italian.