Title: Death in a bookstore
Author: Augusto De Angelis
Genre: Golden Age detective
# of pages: 300
Release Date: Originally in 1936/Reprint in 2019
Published by: Reprint by Kazabo
Source: received a complimentary copy from Kazabo
Written in 1936, the book is a golden age detective novel set in modern-day Milan, Italy. Augusto De Angelis was a famous writer and journalist during the turbulent times of World War II, a time when the mystery genre was subdued. Mussolini’s government destroyed them by burning the books.
De Angelis wrote 20 such books with Carlo De Vincenzi as the Lead Inspector. Even though the books were popular and loved by the masses, they did not survive government wrath.
During the 1930s and 40s, when American & British author detectives were at the forefront, this Italian detective was creating huge waves in Italy and was different from his English counterparts.
I am happy and lucky to get a copy of the book from Kazabo publishing house.
The book starts with a sweeper who finds a packet on the street of Milan. It had a message “Please deliver to the police station.” The package was delivered to the Flying Squad Inspector De Vincenzi. The box had four pieces of medical instrument and a lab coat.
On the other side of the city, Gualmo Pietrosanto, a clerk in a bookstore, finds a dead body inside the store. The Superintendent of Police asks De Vincenzi to attend the scene of the crime. Once he reaches, he realizes it’s the famous doctor Magni, who is the victim of the murder. Shot at the back of his head, he finds no other shreds of evidence left at the crime scene. But, when he further investigates, he finds a rare book, Le Zaffetta, missing from the shelf. De Vincenzi has eight days to solve the murder, either that, or he resigns.
De Angelis’s De Vincenzi is one of the most popular characters in Italy. Out of his 20 books, 2 of his books are made into movies. Written during World War II, the book has classic elements of the golden age detective novel. One reason the reader cannot stop reading.
At the starting of the book, the detective trying to collate information from friends and family. He tries to piece together the person the victim was in his personal and professional life. He goes beyond the usual police limits (motive, opportunity, & weapon). His thoughts are crisp, and try to understand the psyche of the suspects.
The book starts slow and takes time to build its narrative, but once the reader moves across the first few pages, they cannot stop. There is a big pool of suspects, given Magni was a famous surgeon with a strong social connection. Readers get a list of characters at the start of the book, so easy to navigate. The charming city of Milan is described impeccably.
The ending of the book comes as a complete surprise, and the entire event of announcing the culprit comes with theatrics. It will create thrill in the mind of the readers.
One of the other unique aspects of the book is its foreword. It sheds light on the writer and his life. It gives the background and the situation of the times when the book was published.
Death in a bookstore is a unique golden age detective novel filled with red herrings.