Monday, September 18, 2006


Tonino Benacquista is a writer for whom I will look in the future.

In Holy Smoke Tonio Polsinelli, a child of the Italian diaspora , travels from Paris to his ancestral home near Naples following the murder of a friend, who has bequeathed him a plot of land.

Events become predictably dangerous with every cliche thrown into the mix, a clever scam, an Italian village, New Jersey Mafia, Vatican Mafia, Mussolini's blackshirts, pasta and family.But despite the cliches or possibly because of them the book is cleverly plotted, brilliantly composed, and above all it is tremendous fun to read.


Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Benacquista is a writer whose charms are lost on me, and I'm not sure why. Holy Smoke dragged. I kept waiting for something to happen. I finally gave up. The Beat My Heart Skipped was a high concept, a slooooooooow movie.

But talk me into picking up Benacquista again. What's the attraction?


Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"

P.S. I'll link your blog to mine when I get done with this post. I look forward to staying in touch.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter, Holy Smoke was the first of Benacquista's books I had read and I did find the first 50 pages were a bit of a chore.
But I find I am prepared to soldier on with a short book to see where it is going, but if it had been a 400 pager I might have stopped reading. I was very glad I persevered, because the more I got into the story the more I enjoyed it. There are so many books that start off with a bang and end with a whimper, that it was pleasant to read a story that built up some tension.
Frankly it was a simple story and very unpretentious, and although it was predictable it still kept you wondering.
Perhaps I am just a sucker for anything set in Italia. Of course everyone has their own tastes I found Ken Bruen's The Guards to be not my scene at all.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I started The Guards; I don't remember if I finished it, which ought to tell you something. I did flip through the opening chapter of The Killing of the Tinkers, which I think follows The Guards in the Jack Taylor series. It's quite an opening chapter. I have a feeling I may go back to that book. The Bruens that I really like are the fast and violent and funny novels about Brant and Roberts, three of which are available, at least in the U.S., as The White Trilogy. His collaboration with Jason Starr, Bust, is also excellent. Many of the characters in the Brant and Roberts books are messed up, just like Jack Taylor of The Guards. But those books move so fast and so furiously that they don't have time to get bogged down in sentimentality the way some readers think the Taylor books do.

Thanks for that mini-narrative of your perseverance with Benacquista. It may be enough to make me pick the book up again.

Did you read the entry on Michael Dibdin in my blog's first post? I put Cosi Fan Tutti on my list of favorites. I've travelled a fair amount in Italy and lived in Rome for a while, so I always hope when I pick up a book set in Italy that I will love it. You'll see from my blog how highly I regard Dibdin and also that I was not crazy about the one Magdalen Nabb novel that I read. I'm lukewarm about Andrea Camileri (and I also can't remember how to spell his last name), and some of Leonardo Sciascia's novels are brilliant. Peter Rabe also wrote a bleak tale of hopelessness called A Room in Naples that you might like.

OK, there's that lot and Donna Leon. Any other suggestions for novels and stories set in Italy?


Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"

11:07 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for the recommendations.
I have Gianrico Carofiglio on my tbr pile.
Still having trouble with blogger so will post again later.

10:13 AM  

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