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The Mystery of the Three Orchids by Augusto De Angelis. Book Review

October 16, 2016


Inspector De Vincenzi arrives at Cristiana O’Brian’s fashion house to find a fashion show in full swing and the body of Cristiana’s assistant on her bed with an orchid carefully placed on a nearby chest of drawers. Now he has to pick his way through the building and work out what has happened. But it does not help that the potential suspects are being less than truthful.

There is a certain poignancy to reading any of Augusto De Angelis’s books because he did not live in one of Italy’s easiest times. Under suspicion of being an Anti-fascist, he was eventually imprisoned because of this. His eventually freedom did not last long because he died, at the age of 56, as a result of being beaten up by a fascist.

You get no real insight into the crime from the perpetrator’s viewpoint, although you do see the reactions of the potential suspects to various situations when the detective is not present. The writing is clean, but paints a clear picture of the fashion house and its inhabitants.

Vincenzi has been likened to Maigret, which is a fair comparison, because both men are meticulous in their observations and thoughtful in their process of deduction. Yet despite an analytical approach, they both possess compassion and a relative delicacy in their investigation, until someone attempts to cross them or conceal the truth.

The Mystery of the Three Orchids should interest readers who yearn for a good old-fashioned whodunit crime novel, where the clues are laid out, with the inevitable red herrings for the detective to work through. For readers who expect to see the crime scene carefully preserved and meticulous forensic work being undertaken, this book is not for them, because Vincenzi methods are of a less than rigorous era. But this doesn’t get in the way of what is an enjoyable crime novel.

The Mystery of the Three Orchids was courtesy of Pushkin Press via NetGalley.

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