This genre continues to be a favourite among readers, not least because it exercises the mind’s ability to retain and contemplate salient facts, make connections and deductions, and finally to compete with the writer in discovering the correct result. In a way, it is the par exemplar of the appeal of the puzzle. It is also extremely entertaining to be given the chance to pit one’s mental skills in situations that are generally far from the lived experiences of most readers.
Although murder is by far the most popular leitmotif, lesser, non-violent crimes can be just as thrilling and complex, as evidenced for example in the work of Georges Simeon. Quite often an innocuous crime will lead to something much more sinister, drawing the reader into a world of extensive evil. At other times, such crimes highlight how powerful the mundane can be in causing, shaping, and abetting criminal activities. Fortunately, to make the mundane intriguing and enthralling is an interesting challenge for the writer, and one that I find particularly appealing.
The Dead Gondolier
and other crimes of Venice
A collection of twelve stories set in Venice and nearby islands. Each tale involves a different crime, and factual information about the city and its history are woven into every plot. The main character, Pio Scampi, is a Carabinieri officer who spends most of his time thinking about food. He is generally assigned the more difficult or strange cases, and his team of detectives do most of the legwork, usually based on circuitous questions he raises about the crime under investigation. The detection techniques employed are more psychological than scientific and the crimes themselves reflect the specific character of the city and its inhabitants.