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Death in a Bookstore by Augusto De Angelis

December 29, 2020
Book cover of Death in a Bookstore

When a clerk arrives to open the bookstore he works in the unfortunate man finds more than he bargained for. With the high-profile murder of a well-known Milanese Senator, Inspector De Vincenzi is given eight days to solve a very public crime. But as the bodies begin piling up De Vincenzi’s task becomes ever more challenging.

I have a particular fondness for contemporary crime novels (as they would have been then) written before satellite communication, computers and mobile phones. There is something restful about becoming immersed in a world which relies on the type of forensics which required detailed observation largely conducted by the police detectives.

Death in a Bookstore is not only set in 1930’s Italy, but written in 1936 by Augusto De Angelis. It is very much plot driven, complete with a generous helping of red herrings, and the leading detective’s reflections of his minute observations of a vicious murder, and the various psychological profiles of the large number of suspects.

Enter Inspector De Vincenzi into the antiquarian bookshop on Via Corridoni in Milan. De Vincenzi is a methodical man and as you follow his progress through the case you begin to build up a picture of an intriguing man through his thoughts and actions. Reserved, thoughtful and free of the type of angst and vices of the damaged main protagonists which seems to be de rigueur today, De Vincenzi appears to skilfully remain at arm’s length from both suspects and his superiors, while he manoeuvres his way through a testy and very public case.

For anyone looking for a swift moving plot, or in-depth character development of the chief players in the story, then this is not the book for you. The pace is almost meditative as De Vincenzi’s razor sharp mind alights on each tidbit delivered up before him, either from objects or suspects’ statements.  But if you go with the flow and allow yourself to slow to the rhythm of the narrative, then you begin to relish all the potential clues thrown your way as you walk with De Vincenzi sifting through the relevant and spurious.

This is not the first De Vincenzi novel I have read (see The Mystery of the Three Orchids), and I doubt the last. Nor will it be the last time I read Death in a Bookstore because, (despite the viciousness of the crime) it is a relaxing read because of its pace and the enjoyment of picking up the significance, or distraction, of clues that I missed the first time round.

This is a book for a luxurious Sunday morning where there is enough space between the finish of a frantic week and far enough away from the hurly burly of the busy week to come. A moment where time slows, and you can sip your coffee curled up in your favourite armchair while the winter fog swirls thick outside. If you have a crackling fire, then so much the better.

Death in a Bookstore was courtesy of Kazabo Publishing.

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