Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: Two by Marco Malvaldi

Game for Five and Three Card Monte, by Marco Malvaldi. Published 2014 by Europa Editions. Crime Fiction. Translated from the Italian.

In 2014 Europa Editions came out with the first two volumes in the Bar Lume mystery series, by Italian writer Marco Malvaldi. If you love light, funny crime fiction that isn't dark or gory, that fits right in your beach bag and can be read in the time it takes to eat an ice cream cone, these books are for you.

Game for Five and its follow-up, Three Card Monte, star bar owner turned amateur detective Massimo, who gets drawn into investigating crime in the first book when a young woman turns up dead near his bar. The crime becomes an instant and irresistable subject of gossip among his crowd of grey-haired regulars, a quartet of old guys who hang out all day chatting and playing cards. The police are clueless and incompetant (though not as overtly corrupt as they are sometimes portrayed by others), benign bumblers who can't put the pieces together. So Massimo, who doesn't want to play detective, who just wants to be left in peace to judge his customers by what kind of coffee they drink, ends up getting involved, much to his chagrin. The second book is about a Japanese scientist who turns up dead during a conference and shows us another side to Massimo- his mathematics background.

Both of these books are great fun for the crime reader. I would recommend them in particular to readers who don't want gritty or depressing books- these books are light as a feather and well-crafted and entertaining to boot. Massimo is a great character and his cast of hangers-on are ornery and funny and real. Malvaldi makes you feel like you're sitting under an Italian umbrella nursing an espresso of your own as you listen to their back-and-forth. Great stuff.

These count as books 2 and 3 of the 2015 Europa Challenge.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I received these books for review from Europa Editions.