Inspector Montalbano: The goldfish and the Cat, Collection 2, Episode 6

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On the way to church, Mrs Todaro gets mugged, has her handbag taken, and a revolver is fired at close range but somehow misses.

Mimi comes in to pick up some papers, reminds Salvo re the wedding date and that he needs to pick up the rings, something Salvo has clearly forgotten, again. Meanwhile headquarters are sending cover for the month Mimi is off.

We cut to a priest climbing steps to his church (oh so many steps!) where another parishioner gets mugged. There are great views down to the town, showing how great Sicily looks, even with all those hills.

Mimi and Salvo meet for lunch and Mimi is wondering whether to rent his house out after the wedding. Obviously he still has cold feet and is thinking of a bolt hole. However lunch gets interrupted by commissioner, Bonetti Alderighi, who wants to see Salvo ASAP about the muggings. Since he is getting pressure from the church, Alderighi threatens to hand over to someone else.

Meanwhile there is a madman destroying things at Vigata A&E, and with everyone else out Salvo goes to find out what’s happening. He finds that the man, now sedated, went ballistic when he finds out that his daughter Marluccia is pregnant, giving Fazio a black eye in the process. They meet a Father Vassallo who runs a rehab centre outside Vigata and is sitting with Marluccia who is in shock.

There is a third case for the team with the disappearance of Doctor Saverio Landolino, who had gone out fishing the night before and not come back home. Nothing has been stolen and no signs of struggle, so doesn’t look like robbery or kidnapping.

Example dialogue:
Salvo: What’s happening?
Fazio: Did Caterella not explain?
Salvo: Yes he did, that’s why I’m asking

Mimi’s replacement turns up, an attractive woman called Barbera Bellini, who Salvo hasn’t seen in 12 years.

The following morning, the doctor has still not been found, Fazio meets Barbera and is instantly smitten. Meanwhile Angela lo Porto, the Doctor’s nurse, turns up for questioning. She believes he has been murdered by Ignazio Coglitore, the father who beat up Fazio in A&E, on the grounds that the Doctor got the daughter pregnant. She tells a tale that the girl had turned up a year before, the Doctor had instigated a sexual relationship and an excuse to see her every 2 weeks. Finally she turns up, pregnant, wanting to tell her father. Doctor puts her off, saying he needed to get a divorce and she last came round 5 days previously.

The Coglitores belong to religious cult, with the Marluccia’s aunt is the guru. Coglitore has taken the girl home from hospital and doesn’t let Salvo see her when he visits.

Salvo is buying rings when he hears a gunshot from outside, a woman has been mugged and actually hit with a bullet this time. Forensics have confirmed that the previously muggings have been firing blanks – the question is why?

Salvo returns to the police station to find Mimi flirting with Barbera. Mimi asks Salvo to find someone to rent his house. Salvo rents it out to Barbera, but asks her to go on job first….she gets sent to see the guru, who tells her to make choice between older man she’s known for years (Salvo) and younger man who is yet to make a move (Fazio). She leaves, whilst clocking who else was there including the harpies in the corner, knitting away and taking donations in silence……

She looks for and finds Marluccia, persuades her to escape, to where Salvo and Fazio are sitting with the car, having overheard everything. Girl gets taken to priest’s safe house, with Barbera plans to stay the night, Salvo makes Fazio stay too……

Following day, Mrs Jopollo gets mugged and shot properly…..she’s the sister to the deputy minister Biondiolilo so there’s political pressure almost immediately to get the murder sorted. Commissioner tells Salvo that he’s hanging case over to Limeo from the flying squad. Naturally, Salvo not impressed and walks out, but predicts that another woman will be mugged, with blanks being fired again….

Meanwhile, the Doctor’s wife has withdrawn €2000000 from the bank account of the husband…..Salvo goes to visit Mrs Landolino, only to find she’s left previously, and that the priest has been visiting daily.  Salvo goes to the airport to find the missing doctor and his wife in the check-in queue to leave the country. Salvo makes sure he’s seen but leaves without saying anything. Goes to see the priest who confirms hypothetical story, including how Dr has left priest a chunk of money. Salvo promises that he make up some story for the press.

Another woman gets mugged, but this time she manages to injure the mugger, so there’s a search at the hospitals for someone with a cut hand.

It’s 3am and Salvo gets woken by Beba calling….Mimi is missing. Salvo knows exactly where he is, and goes to the batcheor pad to find Barbera in a towel and Mimi fast asleep. He’s tried to get Barbera drunk to have sex, but failed. Salvo sends him home. Meanwhile Barbera has realised that the dead woman, Mrs Jopollo, had visited the guru, leaving a large wad of cash behind. Mrs Panebianco (the next door neighbour) confirms the story, saying Mrs Jopollo had left in a hurry, believing that her husband was in a critical condition in hospital, leaving her pets behind.

During the interview, Fazio confirms that they’ve found the mugger, who has previous, and was defended…..by Mr Jopollo. Salvo goes to visit Mr Jopollo and puts his theory to him…Jopollo killed his wife over money being given to the Guru every time she visits, but he had forgotten about the cat and goldfish. Jopollo thinks there is no evidence until Salvo points out that they have the accomplice who has confessed.  The other muggings were to hide the fact there was a specific target, and Jopollo picked a petty criminal who he had defended previously.

Later, Salvo and Mimi are out on the evening before his marriage. They meet Fazio and Barbera who are out dancing, and Mimi wants to go for a drink with all the pretty girls, but Salvo sends him home. He almost goes to the bar, but finally decides to go home too……

Book Review: Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

 

Death on the Cherwell Book ReviewFor Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils in the world: unladylike behavior among her students and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cosy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her canoe.

The police assume that a student prank got out of hand, but the resourceful Persephone girls suspect foul play, and take the investigation into their own hands. Soon they uncover the tangled secrets that led to the bursar’s death – and the clues that point to a fellow student.

Received from Poisoned Pen Press, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.

I’ve been in two minds as to whether to write a review right now about this book, but decided to give it a go. I read this in late 2016, at a time that I became a touch apathetic around reading in general, and this might well have soured enjoyment of any book I read during this time.

This should be exactly my type of book – set in a woman only college, with plucky gels suspecting foul play; their best men friends/brothers being pulled into the investigation (despite them being asked to do unspeakably bad things – like ask their friends questions!; a random Yugoslavian student who may be mad enough to kill; and several older, gentlemanly policemen who have to put up with women going where they shouldn’t.

In reading other reviews of this book to get some inspiration, it seems that other people are able to articulate my general mood – one calls it a “curate’s egg” (i.e. “good in parts”), whilst others say that the story “ebbs and flows”. This is generally what I was thinking, where the conversations between the girls for example are good, but there is far too much time spent working out possibilities in terms of alibis, motives and routes taken. The attitudes of some of the characters are quite old fashioned to modern day audiences, but are very much a product of the time the book was written – and should not be a surprise to consumers of Golden Age Crime.

In Summary: I might well read this book again in the future when I’m in a better frame of mind, and should my reaction change, you’ll find out about it!

 

Inspector Montalbano: Montalbano’s Croquettes, Collection 2, episode 4

Montalbano's CroquettesMontalbano’s Croquettes is not based on one of the books but rather a short story, Gli arancini di Montalbano, which is still not available in English.

When I came to watch this again, I barely remembered watching it the first time around – however, some things fell into place that I know I wouldn’t have spotted the first time round, and that come to play later in the series. In particular the presence of Pasquale, the son of Montalbano’s housekeeper and his involvement in what happens during the episode.

It’s the time between Christmas and New Year, and starts with Salvo talking with Livia on the phone. They have agreed to spend New Year in Paris (her choice) and it’s clear from the outset that Salvo doesn’t want to go. He hasn’t even unwrapped the tie she’s sent him and wants him to wear during the break.  Fazio and the boys, Adelina (via Pasquale), and Mimi all invite Salvo out for New Year, but he declines, all the time telling people he’s going to Paris.

Salvo has allowed Caterella to take on Orlando – the dog from the previous episode. Caterella is loving having the dog in the barracks, but needs to be reassured that Salvo is not going to take the dog away.Inspector Montalbano

Meanwhile an older man and his much younger second wife have been found dead following their call driving off a the side of the mountain. His son is a painter and a drunk, who inherits €400,000 from the old man because both him and Stefania have died. The car is only 2 months old but has been back into the garage several times for apparent issues to do with the brakes, but nothing was found.  Turns out that Stefania is  – Surprise! – one of Mimi’s old girlfriends, and unfortunately Beba finds out and gives him no end of trouble. The wedding has to be postponed because of Beba’s father has a heart attack, the morning after Mimi has spent the night at Salvo’s getting drunk and complaining about cold feet. Salvo is not impressed when he finds out that the one thing Mimi HAS done after the heart attack is to talk to Livia.

The dead couple were having their villa worked on, and when visiting the site, Montalbano finds they’ve been burgled. This leads them to raid the Albanian work gang, most of whom are illegal and undocumented. The commissioner decides to lock all the gang up, but in interviewing one of the workers (who was found with the stolen DVD Player under his bed) coughs up who gave it to him (Pasquale) and why (for getting a copy of the keys). Pasquale then gets picked up for the burglary.

The police still can’t make sense of the accident – why did the brakes not work, when the garage had checked them out, and why were Stefania’s nails broken as if she tried to get out the car?  They find a tape with Stefania’s voice on it telling someone about how he will inherit everything once his father was dead, which implies the drunken son. However, Pasquale had been sitting waiting to burgle the villa, and saw someone fiddle with the car – it certainly wasn’t the drunkard son!

The police then have to consider that the drunk painter is not the only son of the old man, and with the help of his mafia contacts, Salvo finds the other child, what has happened to him, and how he fits into the death of his father and step-mother. It leads to a shocking result in a graveyeard that noone expected.

Pasquale is back in jail due to the robbery, but Salvo (wearing Livia’s tie) takes Caterella to pick Pasquale and his girlfriend up in order to go to Adelina’s for New Year. Mimi had hoped to go home early, leaving Caterella to cover the phones, but Salvo manages to ensure that Mimi remains in the office (to get back at him over Livia?).

We get to watch Adelina cook the promised Croquettes (one of Salvo’s favourites) – unfortunately I cant find any video to share, although there are several videos (usually in Italian!) of how to cook Arancini/croquettes.  I have also found a recipe with pictures

Livia tracks him down to Adelina’s house and the pair have a raging argument on the phone as she’s fed up with him making every excuse not to leave Sicily. The episode ends with fireworks in the dark, lighting the sky.

 

 

 

 

Inspector Montalbano: The Sense of Touch, Collection 2, Episode 3

montalbano-3Like the previous episode, The Artist’s Touch, this is another episode based on a short story, rather than an actual book.

The episode starts with an old blind man leaving his house with his guide dog Orlando. The house is not one of the more salubrious places in Sicily, which, despite being near the sea, is a one story structure with the basics. No lighting, a double bed, a chest of drawers, low ceiling. There is none of the wealth and high ceilings displayed in other episodes.
The man’s departure is watched by another man, his face shrouded by hat and upturned collar, who promptly breaks into the house to put something in the medicine bottle beside the bed

The following day, the man’s neighbour walks past and spots Orlando is now outside, but he doesn’t approach the house.  Piccolomini doesn’t answer the calls to the fact that he’s shut his dog out and the neighbour leaves without getting a response.

We’re back to Salvo swimming then having a coffee on his balcony as his phone goes. Caterella calls, leading to telling Salvo about the dead man. Initial thoughts are gas poisoning as the gas hob seems to have be left on, with no ventilation. The neighbour warns that Orlando is dangerous, something Salvo doesn’t believe, as dog has been fine with him.

Not knowing what to do with the dog now the owner is dead, Salvo takes him home. When he tells her, Livia is amused and thinks it a great idea for Salvo to have some company

In investigating the dead man, they come across a charity, “Lux in Umbria” who provided Piccolomini with the guide dog. Salvo doesn’t like the idea that the old man left the dog outside – why would a blind man lock his dog outside? The suicide theory doesn’t sit with him either. The autopsy shows that death was due to overdosing on barbiturates, combined with an unknown heart problem, and that gas in cylinders cannot poison you.

Mario di Stefano, the director of Lux in Umbria, pays Salvo a visit, asks for the dog back. Salvo promises to get around to it, but is in no rush to do so – he thinks the dog is part of the whole situation. Piccolomini’s sister Ignazia runs a hotel in Levanza, which peaks Salvo’s interest, especially when he finds she is a very good cook and that Piccolomini visited every weekend.

Coming back from a swim with the dog, the people from the charity are at Salvo’s front door. Not willing to give the dog back right now, Salvo hides both himself and Orlando.

Salvo meets Ignazia at the funeral and gets invited to stay a while. When Livia comes for a visit, Salvo suggests a trip to Levanza, taking the dog. Once on the ferry, Orlando slips away and greets one of the crew, who gives his impression of the old man as difficult. It’s not long before Livia realises that this holiday is really a job for Salvo and she’s moderately annoyed. The hotel and specifically their room is lovely, with the balcony overlooking beach and sea.Montalbano Livia

Meanwhile, back in Vigata, notes are being found in carafes saying “help they’re killing me” and they’re upsetting Caterella, leading to a call to Salvo. Cue a four way comedy piece between Salvo, Caterella, Fazio and Mimi. Salvo tells Fazio to work out as much as possible about the people who sold the carafe to Caterella.

Whilst sightseeing, in some spectacular looking caves, Orlando runs off again, making his way to a fisherman, Toto Recca, who doesn’t take well to Salvo’s questions. Recca has lots of electrical equipment, but hasn’t taken the boat out in a couple of days. He did take Piccolomini out for a drive every weekend however..

Salvo returns to Vigata for a few days without telling Livia, whilst getting Mimi down to keep her company. Both are angry at him, so wind him up when he rings and playing to his jealous streak.

When in Vigata, the carafe seller has been tracked down and Salvo pays.them a visit. The man is tetchy and evasive and it is clear that he treats his wife badly – which makes Salvo suspect something deeper is going on.

When he returns to the hotel, he gets jealous at the thought of Mimi flirting with Livia and the possibility that she gave in, even though it was his idea. He and Livia have sex in bedroom, then having gone to private beach, have sex again….

Walking the dog early one morning he overhears a conversation between the brother in law (Palomino) and Recca. Later in the day, and during a bike ride with Livia and the dog, they reach a beach where the police  have found a body…it’s Recca. Whilst talking to cabineri, Livia and dog stay away, but Orlando still barks at them.

Finishing their holiday. Livia and Salvo leave, and when getting on the ferry, Orlando reacts badly to a cabineri with a dog. Ferryman remembers Piccolomini losing his stick in the water on one trip back to Vigata and going crazy until it was returned. Stick floated till it was fished out. Somehow Livia forgives Salvo for working during their holiday

Salvo nips home to find that Orlando has disappeared – someone has broken into his home and stolen him. Salvo thinks he’s been dog napped, won’t consider him simply having run away Salvo returns to the office to find Mimi in crisis…he still finds other women attractive, despite having Beba. Salvo tells him to grow up.

Salvo visits the propane gas providers, finds Piccolomini was regular as clockwork, and cylinders always have specific tags on them. The ones in the house didn’t come from usual supplier, therefore can only have come from killer. Meanwhile they test the white stick in water, to find it sinks…Salvo’s theory is that empty ones float, full ones sink.

Galluzo gets to investigate di Stefano’s driver funds he was arrested for illegal dog fights but nothing proved. Salvo makes a visit to kennels in search of Orlando, hears that the dogs have been given away, and that Lux being closed down as they have run out of money.

Salvo has been called by Mrs Sara Tarantino, wife of the carafe seller, who asks him to come round after midnight. She admits she put the messages in the carafes the year before as she feared her husband, but they have sorted things out in a way that she doesn’t want rescuing or protection. Clearly this is a case of Domestic Violence, where he had tied her up for days, she had tried to slit her wrists… But if the victim doesn’t want to take it further, there is nothing Salvo can do, no matter what he feels or wants. Episode shows Salvo’s more sensitive side, that he can get away with not bullying people. Lighting does Zingaretti no harm either….!

Recca also had large of money in his account and following the autopsy it is clear his death wasn’t an accident…

The police pull Palomino in for questioning and he admits he is deep in debt. Salvo points out with Piccolomini’s death all problems are over, but Palomino claims he didn’t know of €400,000. He asks the question though, that on a pension of 500 a month, where did all that money come from?

Salvo goes to visit Cascio, but finds out he died several days previously. Another blind man, officially poor, Salvo finds out from a neighbour that Cascio has died in mysterious circumstances, but leaving a large estate. His guide dog had to be put down as it attacked every dog in sight.

Forensics have found fingerprints on light switch in dead mans house….those of a previous offender – Aloisio, di Stefano’s driver.

Salvo pulls the team in to explain his theory…Russo gives drugs to Piccolomini, who hides the drugs in his  stick, gives the drugs to di Stefano, who gives to Cascio to pass on. Orlando reacts the way he does to dogs and police because he is a trained attack dog. The reason for the killings unclear but possibly cos people want out.

The team raid the Lux site, get shot at, with lots of guns….you don’t get this on Morse! The team find the place is empty with the gunman, Aloisio, having disappeared. Empty hollow white sticks found by the sniffer dogs confirm that part of theory.

Salvo visits di Stefano at home, a short but well framed shot of Salvo walking across empty town square late at night, for him  to be confronted by thick heavy door….compare and contrast with Cascio’s one story beach front council house! Salvo puts scare onto di Stefano, blaming Aloisio, but showing he knows everything. Tells di Stefano that a patrol car will be outside and a wiretap will be on his phone…at which point the phone goes. di Stefano answers it to silence on other end. Finally Salvo leaves, and congratulates Fazio for timing the call perfectly.

Following day di Stefano goes to what I take to be a large farm, where Aloisio is hiding out. He tries to bribe Aloisio for his silence, but pulls out gun when Aloisio refuses, only to be stopped by Salvo and his armed team. Both men taken away, but Salvo demands time to talk to Aloisi on his own. Gives Aloisio three choices: die by di Stefano’s gun, die by Salvo’s gun, or tell Salvo where Orlando is.

Cut to scene where there is another raid breaking up an illegal dog fight in process and a number of dogs including Orlando are released.

Inspector Montalbano,The Artist’s Touch, Collection 2, episode 2

Apparently this story is the first one not based on a book, and it makes a departure from the usual opening (of Salvo swimming or being woken by Catarella). Instead it starts with a close up intricate metalwork art being made. Sitting on the workbench, there’s a book titled “Manuscript found in Saragossa”.

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A beautiful woman makes early morning visit to an old man called Alberto, there’s lots of mist outside and inside the garden, it’s all very atmospheric, and overall nicely shot. However, inside it’s not mist but smoke which is the result of a fire, and the woman finds something shocking. The coolness and dampness is a good contrast with the next view, which is an inside view looking out onto Salvo’s balcony where he takes his breakfast coffee. Caterella rings to advise of a Russian woman (“Larussa”) being found dead in suspicious circumstances.

This “Russian Woman” is in fact Alberto Larussa, a jeweller that Salvo knew through Livia. Confined to a wheelchair for the last 31 years he seems to have strapped himself into a home made electric chair and killed himself.

The woman who found him is Anna, who is the niece of Larussa’s neighbour, a distant friend to the police and Salvo in particular. Salvo is very charming and flirty, gets a lot of info whilst not giving anything away, something Anna picks him up on.

Meanwhile Mimi is investigating the death of Ignazio Cucchiara a loan shark who had been found shot dead, with no clues or murder weapon left behind.

Larussa, though teetotal, had apparently downed a bottle of whisky before his death. Forensics think it’s suicide, Salvo is not convinced and after the evening news report, a witness comes forward to report seeing car race out of house when he’s walking his dog. Once again great use of old Scicilian actor, with sarcasm, humour and old man repetition.

Caterella proves to be useful as the only one to know how to use the Internet…. Dialup, how quaint! They get a copy of the book found on the bench beside the dead man, but it takes Livia to point out author of book died the same way as Larussa and perhaps its a message. Livia is down for the funeral (since Larussa has made stuff specifically for her), Salvo doesnt attend the funeral himself but picks her up after and Livia spots Salvo’s reaction to Anna but when she questions him about who she is he is vague about her. Salvo spots someone else at the funeral and puts a trace on the car.

Salvo gets another 48 hours to investigate before case gets closed as a suicide. He starts searching the house, cue the use of some great interiors, and he finds a photo album with pictures cut in half…who is missing? A revolver and a copy of the will also found. The person named in will is the person seen by the witness driving way early one morning…it’s the dead man’s brother Giacomo who has yet to come forward. Working with handwriting experts, they establish the will is a fake and it turns out the brother is the man Salvo reacted to at funeral. When they bring him in for questioning, he seems resigned to what ever happens, expecting a kafka-eske experience.

Giacomo is delivered to jail but even Fazio has doubts as to his guilt. During his interview Giacomo says there would be no point faking the will in his favour as he got everything anyway under his father’s will. He was bankrupt however, withdrawing all his money in last few months. However he seems resigned to being in jail though he claims to be innocent of his brothers death.

Salvo interviews the lawyer who looked after the family business. Turns out both men were in love with the same woman, Emma – she’s the one in the photo. She was in love with both but ultimately choose Alberto who did not become crippled in riding accident but by falling down stairs…or was he pushed? Other clues come to the surface to indicate that this was all a ruse by Alberto to get his brother jailed for his death.

Salvo picks up Livia who is down for a visit as he takes a holiday. He pops into work to give them an update, and is stopped by Mimi, who cannot find any reason who killed his loan shark. By fluke Salvo recognises a name of one of the witnesses….it’s Emma. Everything slips into place. Giacomo has been paying her debts, but has run out of money, he goes to Alberto who refuses the money, so Giacomo takes Alberto’s gun, shoots the loan shark Cucchiara, returns the gun to Alberto’s house, not realising that Alberto is already dead.

zingaretti-1Giacomo is arrested for death of loan shark – it’s decided thatAlberto’s death is a suicide designed to get back at the brother.  Salvo allows Giacomo to visit Emma one more time, then allows Mimi the arrest of the loan shark’s killer. He goes home to find Livia (who he left alone in the car hours earlier) asleep on a chair on the balcony. Somehow she forgives him…..

Book Review: Red-Handed in Romanée-Conti by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Sally Pane

Red-Handed in Romanée-Conti by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Sally Pane
The Winemaker Detective heads to Burgundy for the grape harvest when a hail storm strikes, and a body turns up. What dark family secrets are at play?

Received from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is the first time that we meet Benjamin’s (Benji) father Paul, as both Benjamin and Elizabeth are in London on one of the rare visits over. Benjamin’s brother and sister are, once again, nowhere to be seen, and it is therefore just the two of them who get to hear the news – he’s getting married again, this time to his nurse!

The following morning sees Benjamin get an emergency call to return to France and the Lemoine  estate in particular – the weather is predicted to be horrendous, with torrential rain and hailstorms, all at the most critical time of the harvest for a region brimming with Grand and Premier cru estates.

Elizabeth stays behind with her father in law and we get to see more of Elizabeth in this book, as it turns out Paul has been taken for a ride and has dumped by his fiancee. Over the course of the book, we have Elizabeth dealing with an old man with failing health, who realises he has been foolish and is in fact lonely and has lost many of his friends – a suddenly decided on car trip to France is soon knocked on the head and replaced with connecting him to the internet – a task he easily takes to (but which Benjamin is not impressed with).

Meanwhile, back in France, the area is trying to pull in the harvest before the predicted storms, and we get to see the difference between the traditional and the modern ways of sorting grapes….the traditional may be slower, but the modern way depends on whether it’s actually up and running in time to deal with unexpected events!

There is tension across the estates, as not all grapes have been brought in before the hail storms begin. Things are made worse when the naked body of one of the temp  woorkers  (Clotilde) is found up on the grounds of the local Abbey, and someone has tried to frame Benjamin by leaving her underwear in his car. It takes some less than discreet coversations with the local police for them to drop investigation Benjamin, but tensions continue, specifically on the Lemoine estate, where Marcel the father, Rafael the son, and one of the lead estate workers  Philippine as there seems to be some undercurrent as to who knew Clotilde and what if anything they had to do with her death.

It soon gets sorted out, with the denoument had at the dinner held for the end of the harvest and Benjamine’s relationship with the Limone estate is almost back on track.

Whilst I did enjoy the book, and there was a decent amount of information about the wine of the region and the specific estates, it was presented in a very dry manner in a short, dense section of the book and it did seem like I was reading a text book. The rest of the story was done with a light touch, especially when it comes to Benjamin’s family and I’m wondering if the two authors could balance up their writing a little.

 

Book Review: A Proposal to Die For by Vivian Conroy

A Proposal to Die For

With her father away in India, Lady Alkmene Callender finds being left to her own devices in London intolerably dull, until the glamorous Broadway star Evelyn Steinbeck arrives in town! Gossip abounds about the New York socialite, but when Ms Steinbeck’s wealthy uncle, Silas Norwhich, is found dead Lady Alkmene finds her interest is piqued. Because this death sounds a lot to her like murder…

Desperate to uncover the truth, Lady Alkmene begins to look into Ms Steinbeck’s past – only to be hampered by the arrival of journalist, Jake Dubois – who believes she is merely an amateur lady-detective meddling in matters she knows nothing about!

But Lady Alkmene refuses to be deterred from the case and together they dig deeper, only to discover that some secrets should never come to light…

I read this a few weeks ago having picked up a prepubbed copy from netgalley, but have only just gotten around to writing a review …. Sorry all!

Anyway Lady Alkmene is at a society event and at a loss of what to do now her father is off on one of his botany jaunts. She overhears a man propsing to an American woman, but both are hidden behind a folding screen and she never gets to find out who the man is.  She finds out who the woman is, when she is introduced to her later at the party. Having recently arrived from the states, Evelynis the niece of Silas Norwhich, a man known for having a priceless collection of art.

Problem is, Silas is dead within days, with the newly found niece about to inherit every thing. However, was the death an accident, or was it murder? Alkmene suspects the latter, and with time on her hands, starts investigating.  Her name and connections get her only so far however, but other doors begin to open when she joins forces with the investigative journalist Jake Dubois. He initially dislikes her meddling, no matter how well interntioned, especially when she tries to deal with issues that she ultimately will only make worse, no matter what she tries.

In the end however, they come to some form of truce, and work together to find out about identity fraud, lost families, deaths…all the things you would want in such a mystery. Whether or not the crime itself is complex, the hard work is on the world-creation for this novel, which is the more enjoyable for all the detail. It allows for further novels to have both the glamour of the “highlife” (diamonds, parties and steam ships) combined with the gutterlife (the slums, the pre-NHS/pre-dole world) for the low paid and sick.

I know there are at least two other books in this series, and there are enough “gaps” to allow for further developments later. Such as: where does the chemistry between the two leads take them? Is London really that progressive (a mere 20 years after the death of Victoria) for a girl to be allowed to run around town without a chaperone? Or is her father living in his own world so much that he doesn’t wonder about the “look of the thing”, and therefore not arrange for Alkmene to have a companion?