Death in a Bookstore


by Augusto De Angelis

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Tightly plotted, engaging and atmospheric, this classic from the inventor of the Italian “Whydunit” will keep you guessing until the last page.

When the clerk arrived to unlock the bookstore on Via Corridoni, the last thing he expected to find inside was a dead Senator. . .

Now Inspector De Vincenzi has been assigned the case and the only clue is a missing copy of a rare book, La Zaffetta, taken from the room where the Senator lies dead. The Senator’s murder is a live hand-grenade with no pin and the Superintendent has given Inspector De Vincenzi eight days to solve the murder . . . or else. As the bodies begin to pile up, supernatural forces seem to be at work. But it was no spirit that put a lead slug in the back of Senator Magni’s head.

Death in a Bookstore, one of De Angelis’s best novels, is a psychological tour de force. Inspector De Vincenzi, “the first authentic Italian detective,” doesn’t just track down clues, he gets inside the heads of his suspects, with often stunning results. “You disregard evidence . . .  appearances . . . earlier crimes. You disregard motives. You observe people, question them, examine them, judge them with your psychological method and then set them free, having decided that they cannot be guilty, because they lack the moral, intellectual, temperamental, or emotional capacity to commit a murder, this murder . . . Where will we end up, De Vincenzi? Your obsession with the psychology of murder is madness!”

Milan, perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in Italy, is almost another character in Death in a Bookstore. While the story is a work of fiction, the setting is not. De Angelis meticulously describes streets and parks, restaurants and cafés, even buildings, most of which are still perfectly recognizable. It is a moving, almost eerie, experience to use Google Street View to step out of police headquarters and walk the streets of 1930s Milan with Inspector De Vincenzi at your shoulder.

While new to English readers, Inspector De Vincenzi is immensely popular in Italy, and is the protagonist of several best-selling novels as well as two Italian television series.

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