Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Death and the Olive Grove (Inspector Bordelli Mystery) by Marco Vichi

Florence, Italy, in April of 1964 is the backdrop for this historical mystery, which is book two in the Inspector Bordelli Mystery Series.  The first case is mentioned in the book, so it is advisable to read the books in the series in order.  I review the first book in the series here on this site.

Police Inspector Bordelli is still cynical, a smoker (ex-smokers should stay clear of the Bordelli books!), an experienced policeman, victim to intrusive wartime flashbacks, sympathetic to the those on the low end of society, unpredictable, a binge drinker and eater, intuitive, and immature in his relations with women due to abuse in his childhood.  Although in this book Bordelli does spend the night with a woman, a dominatrix, of course, since that is what his past has doomed him to seek out.

Book 1 in the Series, reviewed on this site

Italian post WWII politics continues to leave Bordelli cold:
...the first twenty years of the republic had done more harm to Italy than the Fascists and Nazis combined.
Bordelli laments the materialistic and greedy newly-rich industrialists, the poverty-stricken underclass, the abandoned elderly, and the abandoned countryside.

The translation is missing some punctuation marks, some carriage returns, some subjunctive verbs, just like the first book in the series, which is a translation from Italian.  And it uses the British single quote in place of the double quote, which can be confusing now and then.  There are footnotes explaining some of the references to Italian culture and history, just as in the first book.

Book 3 in the series

There is more of a plotline in Death and the Olive Grove, with two main cases for Bordelli, and lots of bodies, some are very disturbingly children's bodies, but the series is more psychological novels than police procedurals.  We learn more about Bordelli's past:  his wartime experiences, his police work, and how he met certain people in his life.  The reader gets to revisit all the secondary characters from the first novel, one by one, and learn a bit more about them.

1960s Florence, Italy, was very different from today's tourist-swamped town, and the author enjoys pointing that out.  Here are 19 seconds of footage showing the main square with Fiat Cinquecentos and other mini-cars parked and driving about.  Fiat 500s are still to be seen, as a rarity, but cars are not allowed to drive in the main square any more!


The themes of the book feel much more important to the author than the police cases:  war reverberates through a society, damaging psyches, bodies and family ties.  You could describe Death and the Olive Grove as a study in the various forms of grief.  If you enjoy your police procedurals with high suspense, you may not enjoy the Inspector Bordelli books.  But if you enjoy getting into the head of a very messed up man who lived through some very interesting times in Italian history, you may enjoy the Bordelli books, like I do.

Book 4 in the series

From the description of Death in an Olive Grove:
The sequel to the critically acclaimed Death in August, which finds Inspector Bordelli facing a nightmarish murder mystery

It is April of 1964, and the cruelest month is breeding bad weather and worse news.  And plenty of disturbing news is coming to Florence detective Inspector Bordelli. Bordelli’s friend, Casimiro, insists he’s discovered the body of a man in a field above Fiesole.  Bordelli races to the scene, but doesn’t find any sign of a corpse.
Only a couple of days later, a little girl is found at Villa Ventaglio.  She has been strangled, and there is a horrible bite mark on her belly.  Then another young girl is found murdered, with the same macabre signature.  And meanwhile, Casimiro has disappeared without a trace.
This new investigation marks the start of one of the darkest periods of Bordelli’s life:  a nightmare without end, as black as the sky above Florence.

These are the books in the Inspector Bordelli Mystery Series so far:
  • Death in August (set in summer 1963)
  • Death and the Olive Grove (set in April 1964)
  • Death in Sardinia (set in December 1965)
  • Death in the Tuscan Hills (set in 1967)

Here are direct links at Amazon.com to Marco Vichi's Death and the Olive Grove:

Please visit the author's website. 

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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