The Place: Florence, Italy
The Time: The summer of 1963
The Victim: Signora Pedretti
The Detective: Inspector Bordelli
It's hot in summertime Florence, sticky and still, the air only seeming to move when someone sprays pesticide to keep the bugs away. A crumbling villa holds an aristocratic old woman who lies in her bed, a terrified expression on her face and life gone from her body. A sleep-deprived detective gets the case and must dig into a family's peculiarities in search of a murderer. Or two.
A thoughtful, intelligent, and somewhat tortured middle-aged male detective from Italy? Sopresa! Despite their similarities, however, Inspector Bordelli is no clone of bestselling author Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti of Venice. Bordelli lives in a different time (not Brunetti's present) and is haunted by the war of just a few years earlier. He has less technology to rely upon and doesn't spend as much time noodling around in his brain. His focus – and the author's – is on the suspects, the investigators, and the crime.
The appeal of "Death in August" doesn't lie in its setting, since readers don't really learn much about Florence. Instead, its charms come from quirky, dark characters and the mystery itself, a classic-style whodunit that unfolds elegantly and plausibly.