I just finished reading MURDER IN CHIANTI. When I first started reading it, it reminded me so much of an older style of writing , I went back to look at when it was published. 2020. So it was new. But the language was more formal than most books I read. So was the dialogue. And the pacing was relaxed for a mystery. And then I realized that instead of matching the tone of the book to a genre, the tone –every part of it–made me feel like I was in Italy, (And I’ve never been there, but it had the same vibe as one of my favorite movies–UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN). Which fits, since the story takes place there.
There’s something enchanting about a mystery where the constables are so polite. The protagonist, Nico Doyle, is an ex-homicide detective from New York, who moved to Italy to be close to his wife’s only remaining family after she dies. The man adored his Rita and tries to cook some of the foods that she cooked for him. He plants a garden. He finds and adopts a stray dog that he names OneWag, because the dog has an abundance of pride and will only wag his tail once when someone is unexpectedly nice to him. It’s new to him, and he doesn’t trust it to last.
At first, it caught me off guard when POVs shifted from one person to another and even to the dog. There’s a poignant scene when the dog digs up a rosebush and Nico tells him, “Out of the garden!” He hangs his head, prepared to run before Nico can kick him or hit him with a branch, and instead Nico picks him up and hugs him to him to stop his trembling.
I grew attached to the characters in the story, even minor ones. Gogol quotes Dante and isn’t always in the real world, but Nico is kind to him. So are many others. The mystery advances along with the backstories of several characters, and the tension is never nail-biting, but it’s leisurely and steady, and that was fine with me. It was a nice change from thrillers and cozies. I’ll visit Tuscany again with Nico when I want a change of pace.