The Hotel of the Three Roses: Augusto De Angelis

Earlier this year I read The Murdered Banker, one of the new titles from Pushkin Press’s new Vertigo crime books. The book, written by Augusto De Angelis, featured series detective Inspector De Vincenzi. I was disappointed in the book as it didn’t match the quality of the earlier Vertigo titles I’d read: She Who Was No More, Vertigo, and The Disappearance of Signora Guilia. Those three titles all had something new to offer to the crime genre, and all three novels were disturbing reads for various reasons. The Murdered Banker was a standard police procedural, and although the set-up was good, the denouement was disappointing. This brings me to The Hotel of the Three Roses, with its rather promising title. I should add that I have a soft spot for books set in hotels (boarding houses and asylums)–primarily for the way the setting throws various types together in forced intimacy.

The hotel of the three roses

It’s Italy 1919. Someone sends the Inspector an anonymous letter complaining about the Hotel of the Three Roses, claiming that it’s a den of iniquity, a “gathering of addicts and degenerates” and that a “horrible drama is brewing, one that will blow up if the police don’t intervene.” De Vincenzi takes the letter seriously, and requests a guest list. Immediately he senses that there’s something odd. Many of the guests are from London, and De Vincenzi wonders how all these foreigners know about the existence of this obscure third-rate hotel as “it’s not the kind you just stumble upon.” He decides to check the hotel that night. Just then he gets a call that a murder has occurred at the hotel, and this is the beginning of his investigation.

The murdered man was found hanging in his room, but according to the doctor called to the scene, the man was strung up after his death. Was this some sort of sick decision by the killer, or was the killer trying to hide the real cause of death? De Vincenzi begins questioning the strange assortment of guests and it becomes quite apparent that something peculiar is afoot at the hotel….

The Hotel of the Three Roses, a touch overly dramatic at timesis a good little mystery, and the police procedural is elevated by a cast composed of the strange, diverse assortment of guests, including a young gambler, heavily in debt and the doll-toting widow of a British army officer.  It’s clear that there’s a great secret between the guests, but De Vincenzi, driven by the desire to stop evil, must work hard to crack the silence.

With each step of the investigation, he found unexpected connections between all these people when it seemed there shouldn’t be any.

Italy seems to be a setting in which an author can capitalize on sun and glorious weather (thinking The Enchanted April and Where Angels Fear to Tread), but here Italy is portrayed rather differently, with incessant rain–a climate that matches the murky origins of a long-brewing crime:

The rain was coming down in long threads that looked silvery in the glare of the headlamps. A fog diffuse and smoky, needled the face. An unbroken line of umbrellas bobbed along the pavements.

Review copy

Translated by Jill Foulston


Filed under De Angelis Augusto, Fiction

10 responses to “The Hotel of the Three Roses: Augusto De Angelis

  1. Am currently reading this and am amused by how much it is expected that everyone is lying, and they aren’t even subtle about it.

  2. I looked at both the De Angelis books recently but didn’t pick them up. I have a couple of other Vertigos to get to anyway, sounds like these can be skipped.

  3. The Disappearance of Signora Guilia is in my pile, so I ought to read it ahead of any other Vertigos. Like you, I find myself drawn to stories set in hotels and boarding houses (asylums less so) – plenty of potential for all manner of tensions and misunderstandings to emerge there.

    On the subject of asylums, have you read Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates? If not, I think you might like it as a large chunk of the opening section takes place in a psychiatric unit. Overall, it’s a little uneven compared to some of his other (better-known) novels, but there are some standout scenes shot through with bitterness.

  4. I read Signora Giulia on your recommendation and liked its classic Italian cool and its world-weary view of “justice”. This one sounds not quite as interesting. I’m now enjoying a Guerrieri book “temporary Perfections” after your rv of “A Fine Line”.

  5. Jonathan

    I don’t usually like crime books but this one sounds interesting – it must be the hotel setting as I also like hotel/boarding house settings in books.

  6. I agree that stories set in places where diverse groups of folks are thrown together can be so good. Putting an odd assortment of characters together can be so much fun.

  7. This is on my reading list for summer! Looking forward to it.

  8. Count me as another sucker for books set in hotels and boarding houses.

    This sounds decent, and better than the Murdered Banker, and frankly I intend to read both but they don’t sound quite as interesting as the others in the Vertigo range.

    I probably plan to read Banker before this one, particularly if this is the better of the two. My impression is the order doesn’t much matter though, is that right?

    • The earlier Vertigo books were all something special in one way or another. These seem to be just police procedurals that deserve to be back in print, and police procedurals are not my favourite when it comes to crime. No they are not in order but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

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