- first published 2008 in Italian
- this edition published byEuropa Editions 2014
- translated by Howard Curtis
- ISBN 978-1-60945-205-651600
- 168 pages
- #2 in the Bar Lume series
- source: my local library
- Available from Amazon
At the Bar Lume, with the exception of Massimo the bartender and his assistant, the beautiful Tiziana, the youngest regular is seventysomething Aldo. The principal, indeed the only, activity in which the bar's elderly patrons engage is sitting around playing cards and analysing, gossiping and chronicling every event that occurs in their small Tuscan town. They ask Massimo, to investigate a murder and provide a running commentary, playing devil's advocate to all theories about the crime. Their cunning at three card Monte has taught them to see the truth behind appearances.
The Twelfth International Workshop on Macromolecular and Biomacromolecular Chemistry takes place in Massimo's home town of Pineta in Northern Italy, attracting a number of Japanese delegates, including one very elderly and much revered professor. Massimo and Aldo, one of the pensioners, are to provide catering during its coffee and lunch breaks. There is great excitement and disbelief when the elderly Japanese professor is found dead, and then the police find they are investigating a murder. They need Massimo's help with translation as they interview the delegates one by one.
From Wikipedia: The Three-card Monte game itself is very simple. To play, a dealer places three cards face down on a table, usually on a cardboard box which provides the ability to set up and disappear quickly.The dealer shows that one of the cards is the target card, e.g., the queen of hearts, and then rearranges the cards quickly to confuse the player about which card is which. The player is then given an opportunity to select one of the three cards. If the player correctly identifies the queen of hearts, the player gets the amount he bet (his "stake") back, plus the same amount again; otherwise, he loses his stake. As the character who explains it to Massimo says, the trick is to get the player to focus on the wrong actions.
I didn't really enjoy the novel as much as I expected to although there are some humorous bits and quirky characters. I thought the attempts to make links between the title (and the card game) and the action of the murder mystery were a bit tedious, and although the novel was short, I got to the point where I wanted it to be over. The final explanation for the murder (the motive) was a bit thin.
My rating: 3.8
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4.3, GAME FOR FIVE
4.5, THE ART OF KILLING WELL