Come sail away
Suspense, drama and mystery on an Italian yacht sure beat real life

Come sail away
Jeffrey Mannix - 09/03/2020

Nothing is anywhere near where it should be these days, seems everything has shifted or is floating and here we are, unmoored and flapping around like the astronauts at the space station. And so I thought it my duty to bring you a high-paced, tricked-out police procedural by a man who sure enough knows how to put down the words and plot a suspense that’ll keep you in the weight-gaining position for 300 pages. Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panowich will absolutely keep your mind off the entropy of government and the concomitant wasting of civilization by envy and germs.

So I’m recommending Panowich’s exciting crime fiction if you need a break from bleak times or to ease up on the stress for a few nights. But while the unfortunately titled Hard Cash Valley was unquestionably an E-ticket ride for me, when I finished the book I felt as though I had left my post, gone AWOL, even given an ever-so-slight opportunity to viruses and gangsters to achieve herd domination. So I turned to a short book in the European noir genre to wallow in literary tragedy and hopelessness and remain in the funk that precedes the swirl of civilization gurgling down the drain.

The Bishop’s Bedroom by Piero Chiara, published by the very selective and elegant New Vessel Press, in translation from Italian by Jill Foulston, will bring you back to reality with a better attitude about your dysthymia (better look that one up).  

When crime fiction became a genre of its own and broke out of the slapdash and lazy monikered “pulp” fiction, it muscled in to the category of literature beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century. Now it vies for prominence among what would be indisputably called literary fiction. The Bishop’s Bedroom joins an oeuvre established by such luminaries as Georges Simenon, Pascal Garnier, Patricia Highsmith and another dozen I don’t have time to blow the dust off.

First off, The Bishop’s Bedroom is a respectful 150-page paperback priced right, and just mentioning it will improve your status at your Zoom book club meeting. It’s a gem of a book that appeals to sophisticated readers. If you haven’t read any of the classic noir novels and think John Connolly or David Baldacci hung the moon, save your 15 bucks and stick with the made-for-movies novels. If, however, you’ve been reading “Murder Ink” regularly, this is a book for us. One of Italy’s oldest newspapers, La Stampa, called The Bishop’s Bedroom “One of Piero Chiara’s masterpieces.”

With the afternoon breeze on Lake Maggiore in the summer of 1946, the sailing yacht Tinca slips into the scenic harbor of Oggebbio. Its owner and crew have plans to visit the well-known Vittoria restaurant before continuing their meandering of Italy’s famous deep-water lake bordering the Swiss Alps. As he is mooring and stowing gear, an onlooker politely inquires about his boat. He introduces himself as Orimbelli and insinuates himself into the mariner’s evening, first with cocktails in a lakeside pub and then an invitation to join him, his wife and her widowed sister-in-law, Matilde, at their Villa Cleofe looming above the harbor.

After three days of entertaining Orimbelli in day sails and himself being entertained at night in the Victorian villa, our nameless seafarer is moved into the bedroom made opulent for some waggish bishop. The two men begin taking longer voyages with the real intent of finding and entertaining women while the dour Signora Cleofe and the well-corseted Matilde busy themselves with tea and flower arrangements.

The intrigue developing between Orimbelli, our wanderer, Matilde and women in various ports rises to a crescendo that bodes ill for everybody in a way that only an Italian writer of great talent can envision. As with all the fictions selected for presentation in “Murder Ink,” The Bishop’s Bedroom will enthrall and make you proud to be a reader of classic literary crime fiction. Ask for it at Maria’s Bookshop and get a 15 percent “Murder Ink” discount. n

Top Shelf

Stay calm and folk on
Stay calm and folk on
By Chris Aaland
09/03/2020

KSUT streams virtual Four Corners Folk Festival this Friday
 

The father of folk
The father of folk
By Chris Aaland
08/27/2020

Remembering Pagosa festival founder Dan Appenzeller

 

Remembering two singing cowboys
Remembering two singing cowboys
By Chris Aaland
07/09/2020

More than a century ago, Ada Habershon and Charles Gabriel wrote what would become one of the most popular Christian hymns of all-time, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

A secret mission
A secret mission
By Chris Aaland
06/25/2020

Gather the backyard 'quaranteam' for reimagined community concerts

Read All in Top Shelf

Day in the Life

A day at the beach
A day at the beach
By Stephen Eginoire
06/18/2020

What does one do when their favorite summer swimming hole is teeming with reptilian and amphibian aquatic life?

Soaking it up
Soaking it up
05/21/2020
Local color: Telegraph coloring page winners
Local color: Telegraph coloring page winners
04/30/2020

A look at some (OK, all) of the Telegraph's coloring page submissions

Sole man
Sole man
03/12/2020

At the age of 19, Durango’s Mervin “Merv” Stilson started making shoes and never looked back (except for the time he made a Western-style jacket for Neil Young).

Read All in Day on the Life