Death and the Olive Grove

Death and the Olive Grove

April 1964, but spring hasn’t quite sprung. The bad weather seems suited to nothing but bad news. And bad news is coming to the police station.

First, Bordelli’s friend Casimiro, who 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 little girl is found murdered, with the same macabre signature.

And meanwhile Casimiro has disappeared without a trace.

The 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.

It’s great to be back in Florence, even if it is only for a short while. When I first reviewed Death in August by Marco Vichi back in June 2011 I knew before I’d finished reading the book that Hodder had a hit on their hands. The publishers, securing the rights for the first four books in the Inspector Bordelli series, have once again delivered an outstanding package combining an envious narrative, a colourful and multi-faceted detective and a cornucopia of Italian food to die for. Seriously, the food on offer in this book is enough to tempt anyone off a diet!

Although there were a few moments when I found myself laughing out aloud – much to my embarrassment when I realised co-workers were watching me – Death and the Olive Grove (Inspector Bordelli 2) is a much darker novel than I had anticipated and has a very different feel to Death in August. It would be fair to say Bordelli drives much of this dark atmospheric tension and save for a few romantic dalliances which appear to momentarily brighten his spirit; he struggles on a daily basis to make sense of his current predicament.

The narrative is as sumptuous as ever, once again brilliantly translated by award winning Stephen Sartarelli, effortlessly transporting the reader to Florence at a time when smoking in public places was allowed and not frowned upon. Talking of smoking, Bordelli, although no stranger to the nicotine stick in the first book, appears to be severely addicted on a whole new level in Death and the Olive Grove. Health and safety would clearly have something to say in our modern world but in the mid-sixties nicotine driven detectives could and would light up where they damn well pleased, Bordelli is no exception.

They rode for a few moments in silence. The beetle descended slowly towards the city. At San Domenico, Bordelli turned to pass by way of the Badia Fiesolana for no reason in particular, perhaps only because he wanted to see one more the steep descent he used to take in his toy wagon, always risking a broken neck.

How would I best describe Inspector Bordelli? Our beloved detective, sorry Inspector, is a quarrelsome, prickly, petulant and obstinate fellow – on the surface not a great start I admit – who likes to greet each day on his own terms, yet despite all this is enticingly loveable! He goes to bed smoking a cigarette and drinking cognac and wakes up the following morning with a headache and does more or less the same for breakfast before chain smoking his way to his office at the police station, immediately sending Mugnai to fetch food and drink on arrival from the nearest bar.

Bordelli is his own man and cannot be controlled, however hard they try, by his superiors. He begrudgingly organises raids and when face to face with the criminals and ladies of the night he finds an excuse to send them on their way. Whether he does this to avoid the paperwork or to annoy his boss is anyone’s guess but the criminal fraternity appear to love him – I wonder why! Caught up in a spate of child murders and a crime that takes him back to the 1940’s – thanks to numerous and well positioned flashbacks – our protagonist struggles to make sense of the events and becomes increasingly downhearted while the body count increases.

The cover art is wonderful and still evokes memories of Agatha Christie for me, it simply oozes class, I just hope Hodder continue the theme in book three! A very quick read, Death and the Olive Grove is an ideal companion as we endeavour to shake our back to work blues following the festive holidays. Magical and moreish, just like the Italian food Marco Vichi shares with us in this volume. I’m now going away to cook Botta’s Pork Chops – lean pork chops cooked in tomatoes, fennel seeds and milk – yes milk!

Published by Hodder, Death and the Olive Grove is available in Hardback & Kindle.

248 Pages — ISBN-10: 1444712233 — ISBN-13: 978-1444712230

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