"While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote." ~ Mason Cooley

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A New Find - Marco Vichi

I have stumbled on a new, delightful mystery series, another set in Italy.  Florence this time.  The early 60's.  The Inspector, 53 year old, Inspector Bordelli, a non-smoker wannabe who prefers the company of a petty thief, a former prostitute and other societal misfits.  Bordelli reminds me somewhat of the Sicilian Montalbano, direct, compassionate, accustomed to the harsh realities of life, yet still an optimist and a bit of a romantic.  Like other Italian mystery series, this is filled with references to food and attention to the atmosphere of the fascinating cities in which the mysteries unfold.

The first installment in the series, the one I finished in a day, Death in August, sets the stage for the rest of the series (four in translation at this time), the crime itself being of lesser importance than the creation of context.  There is a lot of information about Bordelli's background, which in itself makes this introduction a tad unique.  Information about his war experiences, his early introduction to sex, his family, his moral code.  And the minor cast characters are developed with enough detail to make them interesting and reasonable as folks a man like Bordelli would consider his friends.

I like characters like Bordelli, full of contradictions, using both reason and intuition to address the crime (and his personal life as well), flawed yet admirable, characters who reflect and in those reflections give me something to reflect upon, too.  Like Montalbano and Inspector Morse, Hercule Poirot and Adam Dagliesh.  I enjoy a mystery that depends more upon clues and old-fashioned persistence and teamwork than modern forensics for its solution.  A mystery more about the human element than blood and core, even with a touch of humor.  A mystery that teaches me something about history and/or other cultures. And I love Florence.  Will definitely continue with this series!

A footnote - the translation of this novel was done by Stephen Sartarelli, who also has translated Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano series.  So there is a decent section of notes to help with the Italian references as well as a natural rhythm that only a good translator can achieve.  Having recently read another translated novel without notes and with awkward phrasing and strange analogies, I more thoroughly appreciate Sartarelli's contribution and skills.


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