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by Luca Di Fulvio
Bitter Lemon Press, October 2005
367 pages
ISBN: 1904738133

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE MANNEQUIN MAN features a truly unpleasant serial killer who you wouldn't care to take fava beans and a nice chianti with. I'm not sure I'd agree with the book blurb, which claims author Luca Di Fulvio is nastier than Thomas Harris. But he's certainly got an inventive turn of mind for his take on this side of the genre.

The book is set in an Italian city which may or may not be Genoa. I do like to know where my mysteries are set -- globe-trotting from my armchair is just one of the pleasures of reading crime fiction. But THE MANNEQUIN MAN is high on atmosphere with its portrayal of a port city, riven by refuse collectors' strike.

Inspector Giacomo Amaldi, the morose and angst-ridden hero, has to contend with the strike, the killer, a pretty young student being stalked, and a colleague dying of cancer in hospital.

The first thing to say is that there's a good plot at the heart of this book, but it takes some patience to find. Di Fulvio is a graduate of the 'why say something once when you can repeat it three times' school of writing. This self-indulgence slows down what should be a very good book and instead makes it merely OK -- assuming you have the patience to stay with him.

Worse still, it completely waters down any tension there might be when it comes to tracking down the killer. And you won't need a PhD in spotting whodunit to work out who the villain is. I often need clues delivered to me on a silver salver, accompanied by a troupe of dancing girls, but not in this instance . . .

That's not to say that THE MANNEQUIN MAN isn't worth reading, because it is. I liked the setting, I liked the troubled hero, I liked the feisty student Giuditta, and I liked the supporting cast, particularly sidekick Frese -- a good cop in spite of his efforts to persuade people otherwise! If this is the first in a series, I shall be happy to read the next one, but hope that Di Fulvio has reined in some of his worst excesses.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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