Do you have a “Bucket list”? Most people have some sort of one, but what about one made up entirely of foods and rare delicacies from around the world, that you want to try before you die, and if so what’s on it? I know mine has Caviar, which I have eaten, Dover Sole which I ate a couple of years ago when on a holiday in Devon, I’d been waiting around for years thinking I’d have to go to a high-class restaurant to order it. But no, it was a lovely little family run restaurant just off the harbour in Ilfracombe.
I’ve had kangaroo and crocodile too. Really, I’m doing quite well, although there is still plenty on the list, like a coffee made up of Kopi Luwak, the rare coffee bean (the most expensive type) passed through the intestines of a wild Asian Civet. Wagyu beef steak from Japan, again rather pricey. Getting closer to home, I haven’t had lobster or whelks, a delicacy in the UK. Georgina (my wife and fellow Librarian) laughed at me when she saw this, saying we can have the the latter anytime we visit her mum in Skegness. Another thing on that list is truffles, I’ve had the chocolate confectionary shaped one’s, mass produced for Christmas, but the original ones found growing wild in France, Italy and Spain particularly, no. There are two types, a black one and a rarer white truffle. They are harvested from the wild using pigs or specially trained dogs (which are less likely to eat them, unlike their porcine colleagues). This brings us to this months second book review, it’s The Hunting Season by Tom Benjamin and published by Constable Books (www.littlebrown.co.uk/imprint/constable/page/lbbg-imprint-constable) in November 2020.
Its truffle hunting season in the hills around Bologna and the search is on to find the elusive ‘Boscuri’ white truffle. But when Ryan Lee, an American “Supertaster”, goes missing in the area, widower and local private eye Daniel Leicester is hired by the young man’s parents to find him. Daniel’s search finds him delving into the multi million euro culinary trade, while the ever present hint of Mafiosa involvement rears its ugly head. Soon after a high a profile Italian chef is found murdered, forcing Daniel to team up with a glamorous Italian TV journalist, but before long there’s another murder connected to the case and this time Daniel finds himself the prime suspect. Can he clear his name along with the help his ex-Carabinieri father in law and find the truth behind the disappearance of Ryan Lee…
I love Italy and have been there on numerous occasions, the nearest I’ve been to Bologna is a day trip to Florence 100 km away so I was quite looking forward to reading this murder mystery by Tom Benjamin. It’s a nice easy enough read at just under three hundred and thirty pages long. There’s a hint of a mash up between Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana and A Year in Provence.
Also, with it being set in the historical environs of Bologna, there’s a sort of Morse / Lewis vibe to it with Daniel representing the Sgt Lewis Character and his father-in-law the “The Comandante” Giovanni, a retired senior member of the Carabinieri, providing the excellent fatherly role similar to Colin Dexter’s Iconic hero.
I liked this book and could get to really yearn for an annual fix of Daniel Leicester, as I do with the Jack Reacher series. He’s a nice and very believable character, who hates Brexit and loves BBC radio 4. The widower aspect and his relationship with his daughter Rosie, was a nice angle and could appeal to male and female readers alike.
There are a few minor downsides. There are quite a number of random characters, that pop in the story. Also I did sometimes feel like there was no real distinction between when Daniel is speaking Italian to Italians and English to English speaking characters, so at times you think everyone is speaking English, when actually Daniel is speaking Italian to them, and every now and then Benjamin does highlight it, but not enough.
This is English born author Tom Benjamin’s (www.tombenjamin.com) second novel featuring Daniel Leicester, the first and his debut book was A Quiet death in Italy (2019). Benjamin began his working career as a journalist, before becoming a spokesman for Scotland Yard. He later moved into Public Health, where he developed England’s first national campaign against alcohol abuse. He now lives in Bologna.
So if, like me, you want to immerse yourself in a well written and very atmospheric Italian crime novel, while staycationing this year, observe the covid regulations and Click and Collect from your local book shop or download a copy and join Daniel Leicester and the team from Faidate Investigations as they hunt a killer around Bologna. Then go and pick up Tom Benjamin’s first book too.
Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their pages listed below, then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.