The Murdered Banker: Augusto De Angelis

“Each one of us has a secret, and the man with one he can admit to is fortunate.”

Last year, I read and review a few titles from the new Vertigo Crime imprint from Pushkin Press. Naturally Vertigo had to make the list–along with She Who Was No More and The Disappearance of Signora Giulia. 2016 brings me to The Murdered Banker (1935), an Italian crime novel from Augusto De Angelis. This novel features series detective, Inspector De Vincenzi, who’s working late one night when an old friend, former classmate, Aurigi, unexpectedly turns up at the police station in an agitated state. Aurigi’s visit seems to be a curious coincidence when De Vincenzi receives a call regarding a murder that has taken place in Aurigi’s apartment…

the murdered banker

The murdered man, who has been shot, was a banker, and Aurigi was deeply in his debt. Aurigi should, by rights, be arrested for the crime, but for Inspector De Vincenzi, that solution seems too easy. Yet there are many reasons that Aurigi should be implicated in the crime. After all the banker was shot in Aurigi’s apartment, and Aurigi was heavily in debt to the victim and apparently had no means to settle his debt. Aurigi’s engagement to society beauty Maria Giovanna was predicated on his wealth which makes Aurigi an even bigger suspect. Yet when a  small golden phial of poison is found in the kitchen of Aurigi’s apartment, Inspector De Vincenzi starts to believe that more than one tragedy lies in the murder….

In that room, in that apartment, a heavy, gloomy atmosphere hung over everything like an invisible weight-something monstrous, inhuman. And not only the mystery of the body, but some other unthinkable thing. He felt it. Not only was Aurigi mixed up in it–the friend with whom he’d studied at school and who was a poet like him-but everything, all of if felt strange.

That’s a promising quote, and it’s easy to imagine that the solution to the crime is going to be something intriguing, different, memorable. Unfortunately, the solution, while involving a complex chain reaction between various characters, never quite lives up to the quote.

The Murdered Banker is the first in the Inspector De Vincenzi series, and although the series character is interesting and has a unique humane approach to crime, this is not a particularly strong novel. The book starts strongly but then weakens as attention is focused on the various characters who live in or visit Aurigi’s apartment. As the plot unfolds, the scenes could be stage sets for a play. One of De Vincenzi’s methods, for example, is to lead various characters, without warning, to the dead body, so that he can monitor their reactions. This may have more impact on the stage than it does on the page.

This is one of those crimes where the reader doesn’t really know what is going on, and the inspector seems to have ideas which he hugs to himself and doesn’t disclose. The stage is set, however, for some interesting series characters, including Maccari who is troubled by the dead and is only three years away from retirement. Still The Murdered Banker is the first in a series, and the first novel is often the weakest, so I’m looking forward to the next title: The Hotel of the Three Roses.

Review copy

Translated by Jill Foulston


Filed under De Angelis Augusto, Fiction

8 responses to “The Murdered Banker: Augusto De Angelis

  1. I bought the kindle version of this last month as it popped up in my recommendations and was fairly reasonably priced at the time. Shame it didn’t quite live up to expectations in the end. I really like the passage you’ve quoted here – the style definitely appeals.

  2. When the first novel of a series is not strong, that bodes very badly. I have had similar reading experiences and wondered why the author continued. With that, folks have different things that they value in books.

  3. Granted that his work might not stand up to present day crime writing standards, but it bears keeping in mind that he was writing during the fascist era under heavy censorship. The crimes had to be committed by non-Italians and all the crimes had to be solved. Charged with anti-fascism, he did time in a prison in Como and shortly after his release was beaten to death by a ”repubblichino.” Maybe in this era, he’s to be respected more for his political courage in a difficult time, than his writing skills. I recently bought for 99 cents, in Italian, on Kindle, 13 of his stories and am reading them with delight.

  4. I’m glad you warned me. I would have bought it for the cover alone.

  5. I was getting into gear to buy this one until your comment about it not living up to the promise. The others in the imprint sound more appealing.

  6. It sounds a bit disappointing but, as you say, the first is often the weakest.

  7. Fascinating comment by Romy Paris about the context of writing such books at this time.
    It might explain some of the books weaknesses.

  8. I liked the characters but it was just too melodramatic for my tastes.

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