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Death in Florence/ Marco Vichi

There is a genre of detective writing called Mediterranean noir. The darkness of the novel contrasts with the brightness and colour of Mediterranean life. The market leader is Jean Issu who sets his novels in Marseilles. I was recently recommended Death In Florence. I know, I know Florence is  not a Mediterranean seaport so it should be Genoa or Naples but the concept is the same. I was also interested as literary Rusters have been reading about Florence during the war (In Love and War by Alex Preston).

This  novel was set in 1966 and features Vichi’s regular detective Inspector Bordelli who has to solve the rape of a young schoolboy. Rape features quite a bit in the novel as a male prostitute and a younger girl are savagely raped and we are not spared the detail.

The novel had 2 major flaws. The first is that it purports to be a detective novel but there is little detection. The inspector solves the crime by a total fluke. He has more or less given up.  A good detective writer takes you hither and thither, down the twists and turns of solving a crime with a few surprises. There are none here. Secondly the translation is clunky. I checked on this with Stefano. He noticed for example the translation of the tower in the football stadium as Marathon for Maratona which makes no sense and would be better translated as Maratona tower. A poor translation affects the fluency of the prose.

The novel is stronger as a depiction of Florence and Italy in the sixties. The description of the flood when the Arno broke its banks is superb writing. The hangover from the war , the corruption of the society, the power of the church sinisterly applied are all well conveyed. To that extent he does meet the standards of Mediterranean noir. A detective novel needs a stronger central character than Bordelli. He fits into the mould of the loner, principled type. Bernie Gunther in the Philip Kerr series does this better. There is a perverted sexual leitmotiv which made me uneasy and I was unconvinced why a much younger woman found Bordelli so attractive.

In the same vein that Daffers reviews her restaurants by being more  a critical diner than serious foodie I try to evaluate whether a reader could, would or should enjoy the novel I review.  I am afraid this gets the thumbs down.




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About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts