A Quiet Death in Italy by Tom Benjamin #BookReview

A Quiet Death In ItalyWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Quiet Death in Italy by Tom Benjamin. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the tour and to Constable for my digital review copy. You can read my review below but do also take a look at the posts by my tour buddies, The Magic of Wor(l)ds and Tizi’s Book Review.

EXu9kKLWAAMtUAnAbout the Book

Bologna: city of secrets, suspicion . . . and murder.

When the body of a radical protestor is found floating in one of Bologna’s underground canals, it seems that most of the city is ready to blame the usual suspects: the police.

But when private investigator Daniel Leicester, son-in-law to a former chief of police, receives a call from the dead man’s lover, he follows a trail that begins in the 1970s and leads all the way to the rotten heart of the present-day political establishment.

Beneath the beauty of the city, Bologna has a dark underside, and English detective Daniel must unravel a web of secrets, deceit and corruption – before he is caught in it himself.

A dark and atmospheric crime thriller set in the beautiful Italian city of Bologna, perfect for fans of Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin and Philip Gwynne Jones.

Format: Paperback (352 pages)    Publisher: Constable
Publication date: 21st May 2020 Genre: Crime

Find A Quiet Death in Italy on Goodreads

Purchase links*
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

Although a debut novel, A Quiet Death in Italy has the feel of a book part way through a series. I mean that in a good way as its location – the Italian city of Bologna – and its main characters seem so very well realised. In particular, the author has given private detective, Daniel Leicester, a back story that makes him both a sympathetic character and leaves open plenty of possibilities for future story lines. There’s a great cast of secondary characters as well – Rose, Jacopo, Alba and Dolores. Not forgetting Daniel’s boss and father-in-law, the formidable Comandante for whom the phrase “We are family” is more than mere words, it’s a credo to live – and act – by.

But perhaps the key character is Bologna itself; a city in which ancient and modern exist cheek by jowl. So fashionable bars and restaurants are housed in former Renaissance palaces with trompe l’oeil ceilings and behind the high walls of family homes are hidden gardens and courtyards.

The satisfyingly intricate plot skilfully encompasses both past and present Italian political history involving a complex web of relationships, recrimination and revenge, and encompassing all levels of society. There are exciting action scenes and dramatic moments that make the most of city locations. And there is delicious sounding food – tortellini in brodo, tagliatelle al ragu, zuppe inglese to name but a few. (The book has a useful glossary in which, among other things, you can learn about ‘the Italian Banksy’ and the dish you should never ask for in a restaurant in Bologna.)

I really enjoyed A Quiet Death in Italy. An assured debut, it promises to be the start of a terrific new crime series. It won’t do the tourist industry of Bologna any harm either. My review copy came with a bonus – an excerpt from the next book in the series, The Hunting Season. I, for one, shall be eagerly awaiting its publication in November.

In three words: Suspenseful, assured, atmospheric

Try something similar: A Season for the Dead (Nic Costa #1) by David Hewson

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A Quiet - TomBenjaminAbout the Author

Tom Benjamin started off as a reporter before moving to the press office at Scotland Yard and running drugs awareness campaign FRANK. He moved to Bologna where his work as doorman at a homeless canteen inspired him to create English detective Daniel Leicester in a series that serves up equal helpings of the local cuisine and ubiquitous graffiti; the city’s splendour, decay, and danger.

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Blog Tour/Book Review: That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina

That Summer in Puglia Blog Tour

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina and sharing my review of this intense and powerful love story.

Thank you to Aimee at Bookollective for inviting me to join the tour.

That Summer in PugliaAbout the Book

Tommaso has escaped discovery for thirty years but a young private investigator, Will, has tracked him down.

Tommaso asks him to pretend never to have found him. To persuade Will, Tommaso recounts the story of his life and his great love. In the process, he comes to recognise his true role in the events which unfolded, and the legacy of unresolved grief.

Now he’s being presented with a second chance – but is he ready to pay the price it exacts?

Format: Paperback (303 pp.)    Publisher: Eyewear Publishing
Published: 1st March 2018        Genre: Fiction, Romance

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find That Summer in Puglia on Goodreads

My Review

That Summer in Puglia tells the story of a love affair between two young people – Tommaso and Anna – that is as intense as the heat of an Italian summer.  Tommaso is clever, introspective and solitary with just a small circle of friends.  He’s never had a girlfriend because he’s never come across anyone with whom he feels a real connection.  That all changes when he meets Anna, the result of a chance encounter – or perhaps it’s fate? ‘Extraordinary, how the course of lives can depend on trivia.’

I loved the way Tommaso and Anna bond over a shared love of books and thoughtful, earnest conversation.  One of the great strengths of the book is the way it conveys the plethora of feelings associated with first love – and not just desire or wanting to be with the other person all the time.  Tommaso finds his outlook on the world has suddenly changed since meeting Anna.  ‘Places, people and objects outside school took on new meaning whenever – and it was often – they confirmed something she had said and which had never occurred to me… Everyday actions triggered musings as to what Anna might say or do: whether she took the same pleasure as me in the blossoming almond trees at this time of year…whether she ate her focaccia alla cipolla – oozing from every side with its succulent filling of sautéed onions, capers, tiny black olives and fresh tomato chunks – with fork and knife like my mother, or with bare hands like most of us.’   

As Tommaso and Anna roam the maze of narrow streets that make up the Old Town of Ostuni, taking delight in small things and shared places, there are beautiful descriptions of the ancient town, full of light and shade. ‘We turned into the narrower stretch of the street.  Over the centuries, carts had carved smooth grooves into the white flagstones.  The further we climbed, the more closely huddled together the houses became.  Arched alleyways opened up alongside us and snaked their way towards partially-seen buildings and hidden corners… The orange-tinted street lights bounced off the whiteness of walls and flagstones, adding to the labyrinth’s air of mystery and magic.’  I also have to include at this point another example of the simply luscious description of Italian food that had my stomach rumbling, in this case tajedda, an ‘amalgam of fresh mussels, potatoes, perini tomatoes, rice and olive oil, all baked together to perfection.’

Tommaso’s relationship with his father is also wonderfully rendered – heartfelt and touching.  In contrast, Tommaso’s relationship with his mother is a picture of complexity.  Both seem unable to express their true feelings and this inability will prove to have unimagined consequences as the story unfolds.

That Summer in Puglia provides a devastating portrait of how love can, in a moment, turn to hate if fuelled by insecurity, jealousy and an inability to trust.  And how what often follows just as quickly is regret, guilt, despair and hopelessness.   It also shows how a single action, even if done for what is thought are the right reasons, can have unintended and long-lasting consequences.   But that sometimes there may be the opportunity to make reparation.

I’ll confess I wasn’t completely convinced by the device of the private investigator as the recipient of Tommaso’s memories or that Tommaso could have remained undiscovered and undocumented for so many years.  However, the emotional power of Tommaso’s story and the effortless, flowing writing of Valeria Vescina is what will stay with me about That Summer in Puglia.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Eyewear Publishing, and Aimee at Bookollective in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Intense, emotional, intimate

Try something similar… Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma (click here for my review)

Valeria VescinaAbout the Author

Valeria Vescina is from Puglia, was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and has lived for years in London with her family. After a successful career in management, she gained an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths (University of London). That Summer In Puglia is her debut novel. Her activity as a critic includes reviews for Seen And Heard International, Talking Humanities and the European Literature Network. She has taught creative writing workshops on the narrative potential of various art forms. Valeria also holds a degree in International Studies (University of Birmingham) and a Sloan Msc. in Management (London Business School).

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