5 February 2015

Review: THE ART OF KILLING WELL, Marco Malvaldi

  • first published in Italian in 2011
  • this edition published by Maclehose Press in 2014
  • translated from Italian into english by Howard Curtis
  • ISBN 987-0-85705-294-0
  • 189 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

Nothing could please a chef more than a chance to learn the secrets of a Baron’s castle kitchen. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country compiling his masterpiece, The Science of Cooking and The Art of Eating Well, Pellegrino Artusi relishes the prospect of a few quiet days and a boar hunt in the Tuscan hills.

But his peace is short-lived. A body is found in the castle cellar, and the local inspector finds himself baffled by an eccentric array of aristocratic suspects. When the baron himself becomes the target of a second murder attempt, Artusi realises he may need to follow his infallible nose to help find the culprit.

Marco Malvaldi serves up an irresistible dish spiced with mischief and intrigue, and sweetened with classical elegance and wit. His stroke of genius is to bring Italy’s first cookery writer to life in this most entertaining of murder mysteries.

My Take

This is a delightful book, both for its murder mystery and for its insight into Italian society in 1895, after unification. Here we have a Baron and his extended family living in castle splendour, with his heirs unaccustomed to doing anything for themselves. The first death is that of the young butler, poisoned by a glass of wine intended, it seems, for the Baron himself. The Baron is then peppered in the back with a shotgun, confirming that he was the intended victim of the poisoned wine.

Meanwhile Pellegrino Artusi is befriended by the daughter of the family who has the habit of reading private diaries, and he overhears the housemaid sobbing in great distress. Artusi has come to the castle to advise the Baron whether he could turn his home into a hotel to keep himself financially afloat, but he is a little distracted when one of the maiden aunts comes to believe he is a potential suitor.

This is a novel written with great humour, with the author breaking in occasionally to apologise for his departure from 19th century language. And at the back are some mouth watering recipes from the historical Artusi's cookery book published in 1895.

For The Art of Killing Well, for Marco Malvaldi was awarded both the Isola d'Elba Award and the Castiglioncello Prize.

I loved it.

My rating: 4.5

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It does sound delightful, Kerrie - thanks


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