Monday, June 27, 2011

Review of White Death by Tobias Jones (Faber, 2011)

Somebody has burnt out the car of a factory owner and threatened to do the same to his premises unless he sells up. Undaunted, he hires Castagnetti, a hard nosed private detective whose hobby is to keep bees, to find out who is threatening him. Castagnetti soon discovers that there are other similar tales in the city. Shortly after those who are intimidated sell their site, it is re-designated as a development area and its value soars. The stakes though are high. A year previously a man involved in such a deal was shot dead. Then the factory he’s meant to be protecting is set ablaze killing a young immigrant working as a security guard. The factory owner wants to settle with his invisible attackers, but Castagnetti wants justice and to tackle the intimidation and political corruption at work.

This is the second book I’ve read in a week that proclaims that the author is the new Michael Dibdin. This seems to be mainly on the pretext that both write crime novels set in Italy as both Conor Fitzgerald and Tobias Jones have their own voices and styles that bear little resemblance, I feel, to Dibdin and indeed each other. Fitzgerald’s prose is richly textured and has lengthy descriptive passages, Jones’ is more economical, tighter and faster paced. Whilst Fitzgerald charts the life of a policeman, Jones’ principal character is a private investigator. Both have their merits and both are enjoyable reads. White Death moves at a swift pace. The prose is expressive and the characters and scenes well penned. The plot is fairly straightforward, with some nice detail on property politics and deal making, and it has a nice twist, though I found the tension a little underwhelming at times and the ending a little sudden and underdeveloped. A few more pages would have helped to round the story off a little more. Overall, a very readable book and a solid second addition to Jones’ series.

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