Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am featuring Murder in an Italian Village by Michael Falco today!
Murder in an Italian Village (A Bria Bartolucci Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Amalfi Coast, Italy
Kensington Cozies (September 26, 2023)
Hardcover : 384 pages
ISBN-10 : 1496742133
ISBN-13 : 978-1496742131
Kindle ASIN : B0BRF2BXJ3
Set in beautiful Positano, Italy, the debut of a cozy mystery series featuring a widowed B&B owner who discovers a body in one of her bedrooms before opening day!
On the surface, Bria’s Mediterranean life radiates beauty—the kind her late husband, Carlo, dreamed about when he concocted the romantic idea to start a bed and breakfast on the breathtaking Amalfi Coast. With the grand opening of Bella Bella approaching six months after Carlo’s tragic death, Bria and her eight-year-old son Marco brace for a bittersweet new beginning by the sea . . .
Before celebratory vino flows on opening day, a stranger appears in an otherwise pristine guest room, lifeless and covered in blood. Bria can’t understand why murder would check into Bella Bella. And police are just as puzzled. As suspicions fall on a B&B employee, what’s certain is that saving her reputation—and surviving—depend on catching the real killer before it’s too late.
Flanked by her feisty best friend, Rosalie, and well-traveled sister, Lorenza, Bria vows to prove to everyone in Positano that no one at Bella Bella was involved with the crime. But as the women expose a scandal that stretches across their dazzling tourist village, it will take everything they’ve got to name the murderer and avoid becoming the next target of someone’s deadly vendetta . . .
Welcome to Positano, Italy right on the Amalfi Coast. Carlos Bartolucci’s dream was to open Bella Bella Bed & Breakfast with his wife Bria, their son Marco, along with their dog Bravo. But Carlos died a tragic death six months ago. Now Bria is ready to follow his dream without him. She has hired a handyman, Giovanni, to help with the jobs that would have been Carlos’s tasks.
Bria, Marco, and Bravo have been welcomed into the community and made many friends. After walking Marco to school just days before the B&B’s grand opening Bria returns home to find a stranger lying on a bed in one of the guest rooms dead and covered in blood. She has no idea who he is, how he got there, why he was killed, or who did it. Police are fixated on Giovanni but Bria can’t believe he committed the crime.
To save the reputation of her business and her handyman Bria teams up with her sister Lorenza and her friend Rosalie to prove to everyone that Giovanni is innocent by exposing the real killer before she becomes the next victim.
Bria is an interesting protagonist but I was a little concerned about her actions regarding the opening of the B&B. I would have expected her to be busy getting everything ready for the opening. It was stated several times that guests would be arriving soon but I don’t recall her taking one phone call or receiving an email or referring to an online booking site. She talked about trying out breakfast recipes but she doesn’t do much baking. Giovanni is fixing a few things but not urgently like the grand opening is happening soon. We read about her taking her son to school every day and the nun there playing with the dog. She is an attentive mother and that’s a good thing but I assume she is going to be busy with guests in the mornings once she is open and I didn’t see how she was going to address this. Maybe it is just the laid-back Italian way of doing things but it felt strange to me. The character needs more definition and development. I know it is hard to introduce all the core characters and develop them in a worthwhile way when a series is just starting out. I hope we get to know them all better as the series continues.
The mystery was intriguing. Who was this man? Why was killed? Why at Bella Bella? The author served up some red herrings but in places the story really dragged. It felt like clues were dropped almost as an afterthought. Bria did have some good sleuthing skills and was able to ferret out some great secrets, which moved the story along and at times made her mother-in-law livid. The reveal was surprising and entertaining. I did enjoy the way everything was explained at the end but something about it just felt off.
I loved the beautiful setting of this book. The author helped me escape to the Amalfi Coast with his words. I am on the fence about the snippets of Italian throughout the book because I do not speak the language. I was able to understand the meanings and many times the phrase was followed by the English words but it really messed up the flow of the story. The author does provide a glossary at the end of the book but referring to it constantly would have been even worse. Italian is a beautiful language and I know the author was using it to bring the location to life, but he had done that already with English words.
Murder in an Italian Village has some good bones. The setting is idyllic and I enjoyed my virtual visit. But I want to get to know the characters better and feel more engaged by them. The story could use some editing in places to tighten things up and make it flow better. I am curious to see how Bria’s life changes when the B & B is open and filled with a variety of guests. It is a familiar theme for a cozy mystery series but the location sets this series apart.
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About the Author
Michael Falco is a graduate of New York University and has studied at Playwrights Horizons and Gotham Writers Workshop. He currently lives in Secaucus, NJ, where he is working on the next Bria Bartolucci Mystery.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”