Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: The Dogs of Rome

I generally only read police procedural mysteries if they are set in another country (i.e. not in the US). Fortunately, there are a number of good police mystery series set in Italy: Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series [set mostly in central Italy], Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series [Sicily], Magdalen Nabb's Marshal Guarnaccia series [Florence], David Hewson's Nic Costa series [Rome], and, of course, Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series, set in Venice and my personal favorites.

A British author living in Rome, Conor Fitzgerald, has a new series set in his adopted city: the first, "The Dogs of Rome," is available in paperback in the US and the second, "The Fatal Touch," will be published in hardcover here in June. I started reading "The Dogs of Rome" less than a week ago and, particularly in the last two days as the action in the book has heated up, have devoured it. (Fortunately, the semester has just ended, and I have time for such reading shenanigans.) Our hero is an American who has lived in Italy since he was a teenager and is now a commissioner in the Roman police. The case: an animal rights activist -- who has a high-level politician wife but a mistress with connections to the Roman underworld -- is brutally slain in his apartment. Commissario Alec Blume and his team of Roman detectives must find the killer.

The book begins well, slows down a little over-much after the opening action, but then finds a good pace. Quite purposefully, the author takes his time letting us get to know Commissario Blume. Blume's a hard nut to crack, and about halfway through the book, we find out why. Around page 275, the author pulls a fast one with point-of-view that if done badly, could have ground the story to a halt, but instead, catapults it forward. (That's about the time I realized I Could Not Stop Reading!) If you're looking for the Rome of the Colosseum and art historical masterpieces, you won't find it here; Fitzgerald sets us squarely in the grittier neighborhoods of Rome and amongst its sketchier inhabitants. Earlier in the book, I was missing the types of descriptive setting details that Leon does so well in her Venice novels, but these pick up as "Dogs of Rome" moves along.

An aspect of the book that I appreciate: Alec Blume *is* a hard nut to crack and we don't get to know him quickly. I'm weary of books by male authors whose heroes are thinly disguised fantasies of what they themselves would like to be: where we learn in a matter of pages how gorgeous, smart, and irresistible to women the hero is, and we keep hearing it allllll the waaaay through the book. (Et tu, Robert Langdon?) Fitzgerald does not do this. We are not sure what we think of Blume at first. We do not know him, and nobody tells us what we are supposed to think of him. We don't even learn how old he is or what he looks like until the book is well underway, and as the story rolls along, small details tell us the most about him.

This one's a winner. I read it in the comfort of my air-conditioned home, but I wish now I'd saved it for the airplane trip to Italy. It would have kept me happily engrossed all the way to Rome.

Government-required disclaimer: I purchased this book with my own hard-earned money; it was not a freebie sent for review. The Raving Italophile does not accept freebies sent for review on this blog.


  1. Hi Dr. Bundrick! Nice blog. I hope you have a great summer!


  2. Ms. Bundrick, please let me know how I can reach you. I have some "fanmail" if you might say. It's very important that I get it to you. Thank you so much and great blog, thanks!!!!!!!!