Review published on July 29, 2016.
Recently widowed and banished from Rome to a town in the Italian Alps, Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone is not the happiest of men. However he aims to make the best of his day by skipping work in the afternoon and spending it with his mistress to celebrate her birthday. That should allow him time to get back home to watch his favourite football team in the evening.
Fate intervenes in the shape of a death that appears at first sight to be a suicide but is quickly changed to a murder investigation when Rocco gets to work. This does not improve his demeanour because a murder inquiry is level ten (the worst) in his scale of things that are objectionable.
Rocco is cynical, irascible in a very Mediterranean way and rather fond of handing out his own form of rough justice: a trait that had led to his banishment to the cold north of the country in the first place. However he is astute and uses his experience to drive the investigation to a successful conclusion. In the course of doing so he combats his own troubled life; problems with his dissatisfied mistress; his touching conversations with his dead wife, and the need to settle an old score back in Rome.
I liked the way that Manzini has woven a deceptive tale with an unexpected twist at the end. He has a well-crafted and easy to read style which carefully avoids the temptation to moralise and get involved in philosophical debate.
When I started reading this novel I was intrigued by the unusual descriptive writing style. Then the penny dropped; the work was translated from the original Italian and the style was full of Italian characteristics. Equally the work gave me an interesting view of Italian life and culture in a very similar way to that provided of Sicilian life by the wonderful Inspector Montelbano series.
I am not sure how well the very non-PC characteristics that Manzini uses to describe the Italian male would be received in UK society today, albeit that they come across as very true to life. However they do provide a rich vein of discussion points for book clubs.
I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to Rocco Schiavone and look forward to reading more about him in the future.
David Keay 5/5
A Cold Death by Antonio Manzini
4th Estate 978-0-00-812433-5 pbk August 2016