Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Italians

Talk about inspiring dinner.  Italian detectives are the best-fed on the planet. Here's another catch-up post.
I've discussed my fave, Andrea Camilleri, in another post here on CP.  I never really cottoned to Donna Leon's series set in Venice, although I know many adore her just as much as I do Cammilleri.  I tried a couple, and they felt a bit complicated, dare I say, too Venetian, for my taste.  But I've got a whole bunch on my bookcase, so if you want to borrow any, stop by. 

Italian crime seems strongly defined by place.  There is also a series set in Florence, by a British writer named Magdalen Nabb.  Our hero, such as he is, is known as Marshal Guarnaccia, who must deal with tourists and the carabinieri alike, and it is not entirely clear which irritates him more.  He is closer in spirit to Montalbano (he is, in fact, also Sicilian, which makes him something of an anomaly in fab Firenze) than anyone else I've come across, and the stories are similarly dry in their telling.  They aren't particularly complicated but I always feel vaguely lost, which I've come to think is actually the sign of a good crime novel.  Who wants to figure it all out in the third chapter?
I also read a couple of Grace Brophy's Commissario Alessandro Cenni series, set in Assisi.  They weren't bad but I was deeply into Camilleri and Nabb at the time, and these didn't stand out, so on to the shelf they went.  I seem to recall that Cenni really liked tramezzini, which are a kind of thin Italian sandwich, just a bit twee when put up against Salvo's housekeeper Adelina's caponata.

I've got an Aurelio Zen (Michael Dibdin) next to the tub, that I've been meaning to get to, having sort of enjoyed the television adaptation of a year or so ago.  The TV version was not ideal because some of the actors were British, and some were Italian, so that was distracting.  But you know, anything set in Rome offers some distraction, and with its good-looking cast and Mad Men-cool music, this was no exception.

I guess maybe I haven't read that many Italians after all, but perhaps they are as my friend Dan says of pizza and other pleasures, even when bad, they have their redeeming qualities.

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