- Michele Brown
When I think of Donna Leon, I immediately flash to a series by Andrea Camilleri featuring Sicilian detective Inspector Montalbano. Here's a summary of one of his titles, The Terra-Cotta Dog, from our catalog:
"Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano has garnered millions of fans worldwide with his sardonic take on Sicilian life. Montalbano's latest case begins with a mysterious Mafioso, some inexplicably abandoned loot from a supermarket heist, and dying words that lead him to an illegal arms cache in a mountain cave. There, the inspector finds two young lovers, dead for fifty years and still embracing, watched over by a life-sized terra-cotta dog. Montalbano's passion to solve this old crime takes him on a journey through Sicily's past and into one family's darkest secrets. With sly wit and a keen understanding of human nature, Montalbano is a detective whose earthiness, compassion, and imagination make him totally irresistable."
There are other well-written, character-driven police procedurals that your mother may like. She may want to try:
Lindsay Davis, the Didius Falco series
The Silver Pigs is the first in this series. Here's the Publishers Weekly review from our catalog: "The intriguing premise of a detective story set in Imperial Rome in 70 A.D. is unpredictably fulfilled by Davis's hero-gumshoe, M. Didius Falco, an iconoclastic young republican.
Falco rescues the niece of a senator from a kidnapping attempt, is attracted by both her innocence and the secret she keeps regarding a silver ingot (the ``pig'' of the title) and then stricken when her corpse is found in a spice warehouse. Hired by her family to track down the reasons behind her death, Falco spends the winter in Britain working as a slave in a silver mine. Enduring vividly depicted hardship with customary sharp-witted pluck, he picks up the hints of a plan to overthrow Vespasian, the current emperor. He also meets the senator's divorced, sharp-tongued daughter, Helena Justina, and brings her back to Rome where they work with--and against--each other to bring the well-developed plot to its satisfying conclusion. Wisecracking in ancient idiom, Falco seems, nevertheless, a recognizably up-to-date young man, one whose honor, humor and humanity work him quickly into reader's affection. Davis's story, though couched in period detail, rewards as much for deft handling of plot and depth of characterization as for its historicity."
Magdalen Nabb, the Marshal Guarnaccia series
The Marshal and the Madwoman - here's the Publishers Weekly review for this title, the earliest in the series that we have here at CRRL: "As in the previous entries in Nabb's Florentine series, the mystery here is incidental to the story of people infused with life by the sensitive author. The sixth case assigned to Marshal Guarnacci of the Pitti Palace brings him to a working-class community where a former mental patient, Clementina, lies dead after a clumsy attempt to fake her suicide. A poor woman, helped by neighbors, Clementina had nothing worth killing for, and the marshal's questions yield few clues. Although the cold, domineering prosecutor chivvies the marshal as a stupid plodder, Guarnacci traces links to the victim patiently, simultaneously giving attention to everyone who brings their problems to him. Eventually, a conversation with an elderly survivor of the ruinous flood in Florence tells the marshal what he needs to know in order to convict a low type for several felonies. This superb novel rises far above the staples of the genre."
Ruth Rendell, the Inspector Wexford series
Her latest is Not In the Flesh. The book jacket explains: "When the truffle-hunting dog starts to dig furiously, his master's first reaction is delight at the size of the clump the dog has unearthed: at the going rate, this one truffle might be worth several hundred pounds. Then the dirt falls away to reveal not a precious mushroom but the bones and tendons of what is clearly a human hand." "In Not in the Flesh, Chief Inspector Wexford tries to piece together events that took place eleven years earlier, a time when someone was secretly interred in a secluded patch of English countryside. Now Wexford and his team will need to interrogate everyone who lives nearby to see if they can turn up a match for the dead man among the eighty-five people in this part of England who have disappeared over the past decade. Then, when a second body is discovered nearby, Wexford experiences a feeling that's become a rarity for the veteran policeman: surprise." "As Wexford painstakingly moves to resolve these multiple mysteries, long-buried secrets are brought to daylight, and Ruth Rendell once again proves why she has been hailed as our greatest living mystery writer."
P.D. James, the Adam Dalgleish series
The latest in this series is The Private Patient, but your mother may want to read any (or all!) of the first 13 before she reads this one.
I'll bet she falls in love with the character! Here's a description of the latest, by Publishers Weekly: "In James's stellar 14th Adam Dalgliesh mystery (after 2006's The Lighthouse), the charismatic police commander knows the case of Rhoda Gradwyn, a 47-year-old journalist murdered soon after undergoing the removal of an old disfiguring scar at a private plastic surgery clinic in Dorset, may be his last; James's readers will fervently hope it isn't. Dalgliesh probes the convoluted tangle of motives and hidden desires that swirl around the clinic, Cheverell Manor, and its grimly fascinating suspects in the death of Gradwyn, herself a stalker of minds driven by her lifelong passion for rooting out the truth people would prefer left unknown and then selling it for money. Beyond the book's central moral concern, James meditates on universal problems like aging (the amorphous flattening of self) and the government's education policy, which targets 50% of the young as university-bound while ensuring that another 40% are uneducated on leaving secondary school. Against her relentless intellectual view of our dying earth, James pits the love she finally grants Dalgleish-sufficient to reinvigorate hope and faith so rare in both fiction and reality today."
Your mother may also like the books by:
Let us know how she likes these!