Tuesday ’Tec! The Murdered Banker by Augusto De Angelis

Make way for the soprano…

 

It’s a foggy night in Milan when Inspector De Vincenzi is called out to a murder scene. A banker has been found shot dead in the flat of Gianetto Aurigi, who by coincidence is an old friend of the Inspector. Aurigi has been dabbling unsuccessfully on the stock market and becomes the obvious suspect. But De Vincenzi isn’t convinced – partly he feels there’s more to the whole thing than meets the eye, and partly his loyalty to his friend makes him determined to investigate every other avenue before condemning him…

 

Tuesday Tec

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The Murdered Banker

 

by Augusto De Angelis

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the murdered banker

Written in 1935, this novella length story is the first appearance of Inspector De Vincenzi in a series that was apparently hugely popular in Italy and gained De Angelis a reputation as father of the Italian mystery novel. De Vincenzi (who apparently has no first name) is a thoughtful detective with the soul of a poet, who is as interested in the motivations of the suspects as in the physical evidence. His style is to get at the truth by a combination of interviewing and of playing weirdly cruel tricks on people, such as sending them into the room where the corpse is lying without warning them. This has the effect of creating a good deal of melodramatic reactions, from screaming fits to people sinking into coma-like states of shock. It’s not Miss Marple, that’s for sure.

“Tell me, commendatore, what’s in there? What’s happened?”
“There’s a dead body. What’s happened is that a man’s been killed.”
A tremor convulsed the little man. He clutched at Maccari’s arm, his terror rendering him pitiful.
“Oh my God! This house is cursed! Do they know that this house is cursed?”

Melodrama is something of a feature throughout. In fact, I kept expecting a heftily bosomed soprano to burst in singing an aria from Tosca. The stiff upper lip approach doesn’t seem to have figured heavily in Italian society at this time, if De Angelis’ portrayal is authentic. However in other ways the society is very similar to that in British crime fiction of the same period, full of class divisions and with an emphasis on money being, as usual, at the root of at least some of the evil. But we also have love – not reserved, quiet, British love, oh, no! Soaring, dramatic love – the kind where ecstasy is only ever an inch away from suicide! It must all have been quite exhausting…

opera gif

I’ll be honest – I didn’t enjoy the writing style much, or perhaps it was the translation. It feels clunky and sometimes sentences need to be read more than once to glean the meaning. (I did have a lot of fun trying to see if I could get my “lips trembling with indignity” though.) Often dialogue isn’t clearly attributed to the speaker so that it isn’t immediately obvious who is expressing a particular opinion, which really breaks the reading flow. I also found the dialogue unconvincing – again it has a tendency to sound a bit like an opera script. And every time a climax is approaching, De Vincenzi stops the action and sends everyone away for a few hours, so he can think calmly.

“The atmosphere in this room has reached white heat – a bad temperature for keeping one’s brain working and a clear head. I myself fear that the very rhythm of your pulses is influencing my judgement. You’ll understand, therefore, if I ask you to leave me alone with my thoughts. I must organise them and master them. All right?”

Being a murder detective seems a strange choice of profession for someone who can’t take a bit of excitement, really.

But overall, it’s an enjoyable look at the mystery writing from another country to compare with our own Golden Age writers from the same period. I would be interested in reading more from later in the series to see if De Angelis maintains the high melodramatic style or if this is simply a feature of what is after all a debut novel.

Augusto De Angelis with his niece
Augusto De Angelis with his niece

There is also a short but interesting afterword, setting the book into the context of its time, in an Italy under the control of Mussolini’s Fascists. De Angelis eventually ran foul of the regime by writing a number of anti-Fascist articles; and, after having been arrested and then released, died as a result of being beaten up by a Fascist thug in 1944. So perhaps melodramatic tragedy was never far from real life in the Italy of that period after all.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Pushkin Vertigo.

* * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 😀 🙂

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

37 thoughts on “Tuesday ’Tec! The Murdered Banker by Augusto De Angelis

  1. Melodrama is usually so hilarious. And vexing, after a bit. Whatever is she holding and gaping at? Is it a mini trident? *strains eyes* Oh! It’s a wine thingy. Okay, then.

    Wow. He must’ve gotten beaten up rather badly. I wonder if his nose was broken. Or his arm was twisted back.

    • Indeed to both! It’s not something that turns up in Agatha Christie, that’s for sure! Haha! She’s one of our top comedians, you know, you know – and was in the Harry Potter films!

      I greatly admire anyone who risks his life to fight against fascism… he was a true hero!

      • Who is she? Looks like someone who might’ve sung with Pavarotti, you know. There’s a new HP film coming out, I’ve heard. At least, I think I’ve heard that.

        *salutes him and then does the Tribune thingy*

        • Dawn French – she was/is half of a long-running double act with Jennifer Saunders, and they did lots of movie spoofs and so on. She was also The Vicar of Dibley if that show ever made it to the US? Is there really? I wonder what it’ll be about – all the books have been done. A new story?!?!?!!! *waves magic wand in air and shouts “Hufflepuff!*”

          *salutes too* What’s the Tribune thingy?

          • Hahaha…I’m not even sure what a vicar is, to be honest. Yes, I think there is. Something about beasts? I saw a trailer while at the movies. Hufflepuff! Haha. Is that in the book?

            Well, it’s the new coolest thing. Better that fist thingies or hand shakes or even salutes. You make a fist with your left hand, and then bang it on your chest. It’s absolutely rad.

            • Oh, I must look out for it! Haha! Yes, Hufflepuff is one of the houses in the school – but you’d probably like the Slitherins better…

              *does it a few times* Hmm… I’m not sure whether it’s making me look totally rad! Perhaps one needs to be wearing a baseball cap…

            • A snake indeed! I told you Harry fought a giant snake with a magic sword, didn’t I? It’s such a pity you didn’t read HP – you’d have loved them so much! And now you’re too old… *sobs a little*

              *laughs* I don’t think I’ve ever been rad before! It’s exciting!

            • See how your stubborness has made you miss out? *shakes head sadly and flies off on a hippogriff* I did! Thank you! Change was long overdue…

  2. Ah, yes, the passion and melodrama of a murder investigation! There is something to that, actually, and I’m glad you found things to like, FictionFan. Interesting point about the similarity across cultures of things such as class differences. I’m glad, too, that you brought up the whole translation issue. That can be such a difficult thing to do well. And it’s one of those things that you don’t think about – unless it’s done poorly. All in all, it sounds as though you had a good experience, and I’m glad to hear it.

    • Yes, it’s always fun to compare different styles from different cultures, though being so insular I usually end up finding I prefer our own home-grown style best in the end. I always feel with translations the highest compliment is that you forget it’s a translation at all – sady, not the case with this one. And once you do become aware of it, it’s really hard to know if the fault is in the original or the translation. I have a later book from the series, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the clunkiness is still noticeable in that.

    • I think you’d enjoy these Pushkin Vertigo novellas – as far as I know several of them are appearing in English for the first time. Haha! It’s great, isn’t it? She makes a perfect melodramatic soprano!

  3. Did he invent the cliche of starting a story with a foggy, dark, stormy night?!! Is he the pioneer of this dreadful beginning?

    You have to hand it to the Italians, they are passionate people. *smiles proudly* Keep calm and carry on becomes “Scream loudly and carry on about it”. If Romeo and Juliet just waited it out a bit, they would have grown bored with each other.

    Now I must go master the trembling lip full of indignity… Nope…I just look frightful! I believe this needs a FF poll like the eyebrow lift! Were you able to pull it off?

    • *laughs* I bet he’d have loved to have been! They are indeed – and so skilled at the old spaghetti-twisting which, whenever I attempt it, becomes fairly melodramatic too! Hahaha! I may adopt that as my personal motto! We Brits have thrown out the stiff upper lip now and are trying to learn to emote more…

      Tragically, it proved to be beyond my skills – though I made it to undignified, which is close…

  4. Oh, it’s interesting to read you take on this one. I have a copy on my kindle (not my favourite way to read, but it was keenly priced at the time). I’ve enjoyed a couple of others in this series, and I do like a bit of melodrama every now and again, so it’ll be interesting to see how I find it. I like the fact that Pushkin are shining a light on some lesser-known authors with these books.

    • I like the Pushkin stuff too – some of them have been real gems, like the Boileau-Narcejac “Vertigo”. I don’t think the translation helped with this one, though it’s always hard to know for sure – but the dialogue didn’t have the flow that makes it feel realistic, if you know what I mean. I think that’s why it all felt a bit like a script. But it was interesting nonetheless – I enjoy seeing how other countries were treating crime fiction during the Golden Age. My crime reading has always been far too insular. I’ve also got The Hotel of the Three Roses in this series – love the title…

  5. Haven’t read this one (and probably won’t!). It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, frankly — all that melodrama and such might just be too much for me! Still, kudos for another outstanding review, FF!

  6. Haha I thought we’d have the Go Compare Man singing to accompany this review – it was in my head anyway. The Italians are well-known for their love of melodrama so I can see why that features but as you say the detectives character seemed a little at odds with his chosen profession.

    • Haha! Ooh, I wish I’d thought of that!! He’d have been perfect! Now I’m going to be thinking about him when I read the other book I have in the series…

      Yes, sending all the suspects away every time they were just on the point of melodramatically revealing something seemed an odd technique… 😉

  7. I might not ever read this, but, as always, your review of it is entertaining!
    I don’t know what you look like (unless you are the cute kitty in the photo), but I still couldn’t help but picture you trying to make your lips tremble with indignation as you read. 🙂

    • Haha! Thank you! *laughs* I do find that whenever an author describes a facial expression I have a compulsive need to see if it’s possible… this is why I don’t read on public transport often! 😉

  8. I had to laugh at your inclusion of Dawn French from Prisoner of Azkaban. 🙂
    I’m intrigued though you mentioned you didn’t care for the style. (Based on the excerpt, I can see what you mean.)

    • Haha! I love Dawn French – she’s one of these naturally funny people with a fabulously expressive face!

      I’m coming to the conclusion I’m very insular in my tastes – I never know whether it’s the writing or the translation but I rarely feel as comfortable with a ‘foreign’ style. This one did feel overly dramatic though and not very natural…

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