There are four novels and two short stories that feature Florentine Inspector Bordelli, native of a small town in Tuscany near Fiesole. Although translated into English (kudos to the translation of award-winning Stephen Sartarelli) none of the atmosphere suffers. Marco Vichi acknowleges the assistance of Carlo Lucarelli “for having saved me at the outline stage”, and the cover quotes Andrea Camilleri, “Inspector Bordelli is a disillusioned anti-hero who is difficult to forget”. This last provoked an entire after-dinner evening of Bordelli fans who find it difficult to call him an anti-hero; the Second World War is still within nightmares in 1964 and some monster is killing little girls and leaving bite-marks in their stomachs. As child after child is murdered, Bordelli becomes more and more obsessed with locating the perpetrator and discovering his motive. Bordelli is fifty-four and unmarried and childless; many of his evenings are quietly spent in the company of an out-aged prostitute named Rosa without any thought but relaxation. The days of Inspector Bordelli are spent with his deputies, Piras, a Sardinian, Taddei, Mugnai – and a dwarf-CI named Casimiro. Wandering through this cast of characters are the inhabitants of the village, his friend Botto who owns Bordelli’s favorite restaurant and Gideon the dog. Among the long list of acquaintances leftover from the war is a determined Nazi-hunter.
If one reaches through the pages of Death and the Olive Grove and closes one’s eyes, the scent of the damp trees in the groves, the slick cobblestones in town and the musty stone wall surrounding a mysterious house on a hill outside of town waft through one’s senses. Beyond these smells are the aromas rising from Botto’s restaurant, wet dog and the faint, unmistakable odor of death. Not just death. The inexplicable deaths of little girls. Oh how that monster turns the town on its collective head, and digs deep within each resident for answers.
Layer after layer of atmosphere, psychology, the inevitable plodding through evidence and theory pile up like the fog.
Like the award-winning Death in Florence, Death and the Olive Grove challenges the reader to track the intricate plotting and to revisit one’s own sense of morality and history. Like the onion, the sweet fruit keeps the reader on the edge of tears – for the Inspector and his staff, for the little girls and their mothers, for the townspeople, and for ourselves. “If a man kills little girls there must be at the source of his crime an even greater wrong.”