It's August. It's hot. The mosquitoes are biting and Inspector Bordelli isn't sleeping well. As if that weren't enough, he is called out in the middle of the night to the villa of an elderly woman who has been found dead. Perhaps her death is due to an asthma attack. Perhaps it is the result of murder.
This is the setting for Death in August by Marco Vichi. The mystery takes place in 1963 in Florence, Italy. Inspector Bordelli is a fine character. He is fifty-three and single. He drives his Beetle through the narrow streets of the city. He is haunted by the fighting he saw in World War II. He counts his cigarettes and always smokes more than he says he will. Some of his friends are petty thieves. He hosts a dinner party - all men - and they eat and drink and tell stories of love and war.
This is a detective story that is big on atmosphere and character. There is much that goes on that doesn't really concern the solving of the puzzle but I went along with the flow because I liked Bordelli so much.
Of course the inspector does finally determine what really happened and along the way we get to meet Dante, the dead woman's eccentric brother who is an inventor and talks to mice; Piras, the son of Bordelli's wartime buddy who is now a detective and hates his superior's smoking habit; and, Dr. Diotivede, the pathologist and long-time friend of Bordelli's who never seems bothered by the heat.
Death in August is the first of four (so far) in the series written by Vichi and translated by Stephen Sartarelli. It is a great start.