“Surely there are Italian policeman who are not obsessed with their stomachs?” I wrote that line, which appears in the post / column below, on the basis that virtually every fictional Italian policeman I’ve come across in the past appears to have a food fetish, to the point where it’s ripe for parody. Is it a trope unique - Anthony Bourdain notwithstanding - to Italian crime fiction? I tend to skip over the various menus, cooking instructions and food porn descriptions on the basis that food is a fuel for me - I like it when it’s tasty, I don’t mind when it’s not.
Anyway, shortly after writing that column, I read Conor Fitzgerald’s THE DOGS OF ROME, which features the Rome-based Chief Inspector Alec Blume. The good news is that Blume is not a foodie - at one point he even snacks on dry breakfast cereal - and the better news is that THE DOGS OF ROME is an unusually assured debut. It’s a gripping police procedural that manages to illustrate meticulous nature of an investigation and the complexity of the politics of Italian policing without ever getting bogged down in detail, while Blume himself is something of a rara avis, being possessed of a melancholic Scandinavian disposition despite the Rome setting.
Fitzgerald is an Irish writer, albeit one long domiciled in Italy, while Blume himself is an American who has most of his life in Italy. The combination gives both men an insider’s eye for detail and an emotional distance from their subject matter, and the result, written in a style that is both taut and elegant, is a very fine debut indeed.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.