I am delighted that Condorena has reminded me of Timothy Holme. His Achille Peroni series is as good as any I have read. Unfortunately, there are very few books in the series, only five, all written in the 1980′s. He was also the author of two non-fiction books. Anyone who is a fan of Donna Leon or Andrea Camilleri should try to find the Peroni series.
Police Inspector Achille Peroni has been transferred to Venice after successfully solving a multiple murder case in Verona, which involved prominent families and political conspiracies involving the Red Brigade. It was hoped that a transfer would calm the media frenzy surrounding Peroni’s activities. The press has for the most part been a friend to Peroni due to of his good track record and has dubbed him the Rudolph Valentino of the police because of his excessive good looks.
Peroni is a native of the south of Italy, a true Neapolitan. He grew up in the gutters of Naples alongside of his sister pimping, stealing and managing to stay alive. A priest who had the ability to find out the secret strengths of a child and set them on the right path rescued him from this life. In Peroni’s case it was the desire for the truth. Thus was Peroni set on his current path as a law-abiding citizen as well as an enforcer of laws.
Actually Peroni has a two-fold personality. He is definitely an upright Commisario of the police, but that is sometimes just a veneer barely covering a skillful intuitive Neapolitan guttersnipe. It is partly this characteristic that helps the Inspector in his work. Chameleon-like, Peroni’s character and sometimes even his appearance changes according to the person he is interviewing. He has the knack of establishing his new personality at the beginning of the interview with the very first phrase or gesture. He can be a sympathetic figure of old world courtesy, he can be paternal, or an ignorant bureaucrat not above taking bribes.
Venice is not a city to make Peroni very happy. He has an almost unprofessional passion for crime. He likes it as highly spiced as his native Neapolitan cooking, for it is this type of crime solving that the Peroni legend was created by the press. Some part of Peroni likes the attention of the media, other parts of him cringe when he is called upon to do the exceedingly dangerous things in real life his legend would do. However here in Venice the problem is that there is no crime. Peroni feels that he has become a glorified hotel detective. His latest case involves investigating a betting ring taking place around the gondoliers currently training for their famous historical ancient regatta.
It is due to Peroni’s astuteness that he finds and solves the case rapidly but then connects it to a more serious case of the murder of a local well-known lawyer.
As Peroni and his associates investigate the death of this man, who seemed to have fingers in many pies. He was involved with the gondoliers, with many important people in the city as well as with many lowlives. As the case evolves it appears that something valuable had been in the lawyer’s hands and before long what it was comes to the attention of the police. The inspector realizes that behind the gambling and the murder there must be a single organizing force or person.When it is hinted in the newspapers that Peroni’s group is moving forward successfully attempts are made on the life of Peroni himself.
Peroni has before been in mortal danger, but so far a combination of circumstances – St. Janarius, the patron saint of Naples or the Neapolitan Streak, which the newspapers called his good luck has deflected what he calls the White Lady at the last minute. He has several very close calls as he untangles the web of deceit involving ancient families, ancient traditions and murder.
This is the second Inspector Peroni mystery. The first was The Neapolitan Streak, which introduces Peroni. In Verona Peroni lived with his sister and her family, which included two children that he adores. Part of the problem with Venice is his loneliness. The character of Peroni is a part of the draw of these excellent mysteries. He is unusual, very real, insightful and honest about his own flaws. The Italian ambience is beautifully done. The mysteries are unusual as well as complex and spicy, which is just what is what Peroni thrives on.
Felony and Mayhem press have recently published the first two books in the series. The next several are harder to come but I think would be well worth the search. The Neapolitan Streak was first published in 1980, The Devil and Dolce Vita in 1982, The Assisi Murders in1985, and At The Lake of Sudden Death in 1987. A Funeral of Gondolas published in 1981 was a finalist for the Gold Dagger Award. Timothy Holme died in 1987.