Written by Marco Vichi

Review written by Maureen Carlyle

Hodder & Stoughton
RRP: £17.99
Released: 9th June
Three cheers for an absolute delight! There are several other very successful Italian detectives, but here is a new one I welcome with open arms. The setting is Florence in the 1960’s, with memories of the Second World War still fresh. Inspector Bordelli is regarded as highly eccentric by his superiors and underlings – for one thing, he has a reputation for letting minor, fairly harmless criminals off. In fact several of them are his closest friends.

It is a hot, sticky Florentine August. Bordelli’s sleepless, mosquito-bitten night is interrupted by a phone call from the station. The housekeeper of a wealthy widow cannot get any response from her mistress and doesn’t have a key to her house. Bordelli and the housekeeper force entry and find the Signora dead in her bed in what look like suspicious circumstances. The victim appears to have died from an asthma attack. She suffered from a rare kind of asthma where attacks could only be triggered by the pollen from a certain tropical plant. She kept a bottle of medicine for the condition beside her bed. Her doctor, swiftly summoned, finds that her mouth contains a quantity of the antidote, yet the bottle containing it is still tightly sealed.

As Bordelli proceeds with the investigation we meet an extraordinary cast of characters – his young Sardinian sidekick, Piras, who turns out to be the son of Bordelli’s wartime comrade, the morose pathologist, Diotivede, Dante, the victim’s weird inventor brother, her very unpleasant nephews, and a cat called Gideon – not to mention several of Bordelli’s unusual friends from the criminal classes.

The strength of the novel is the in-depth portrayal of the characters, particularly Bordelli himself – eccentric, obstinate, generous and sad. At 53, he has never had a permanent girlfriend and hopes against hope that one day he’ll find one. The descriptions of the sounds and smells of the Tuscan summer are so vivid that you think they are real. The food is to die for.

I can’t wait to read the next one.

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