If you are looking for a quaint whodunit in the Christie fireside style, the father of Italian crime writing, as he is sometimes known, Augusto De Angelis, will be right up your street.
The Mystery of the Three Orchids is an easy going read with no hiccups in the flow, but one may be said to be carried along by the current, bobbing gently, rather than gripped by a heart-stopping tumultuous tidal wave.
Certainly not detrimental to the enjoyment, but not only the 1930s setting is dated. Although translated in 2016 by Jill Foulston, the writing retains a quaint edge.
Inspector de Vincenzi is a gentleman of his times; courteous and considerate. With that, however, he is watchful and calculating. Nothing much escapes him, and we share his selection of possible interpretations that enhance or detract from his various deductions.
Most of the rest of the cast of characters, half of them suspects, of course, are memorable in their diversity which, for the reader, makes it easier to get them set into the plot, which, while complicated, is pleasantly feasible.
In Cristiana O’Brian’s Fashion House in Milan, owned by an American woman who knows nothing about fashion, a young man’s strangled body is found lying on her bed. An orchid is found by his side. The title suggests more bodies to come, of course.
Except for O’Brian’s estranged husband and his sister, visiting Milan from America and looking for her there, all the suspects are housed in the three storey Fashion House, so we have one of those captive “none of you leave the building” situations so common to Christie, and many others, who all gather to listen to the Inspector’s denouement. With suitably placed cops to prevent the culprit’s escape…
If de Vincenzi is special in any way, it is firstly the recognition of his own fallibility which ensures a flexibility in his deductions, and his unique and accurate interpretation of character.
Although Augusto de Angelis died in 1944, several of his Carlo de Vincenzi Series mysteries have been translated and are available. Website: http://pushkinpress.com
My thanks to Niamh Clark of Intern Pushkin Press for this review copy.