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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Murdered Banker

Augusto de Angelis

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To purchase The Murdered Banker

Title: The Murdered Banker
Author: Augusto De Angelis
Genre: Novel
Written: 1935 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 187 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Murdered Banker - US
The Murdered Banker - UK
The Murdered Banker - Canada
The Murdered Banker - India
Le banquier assassiné - France
Il banchiere assassinato - Italia
  • Italian title: Il banchiere assassinato
  • Translated by Jill Foulston

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Our Assessment:

B+ : a bit old-fashioned but nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Murdered Banker opens with a Milan fog so dense that it's almost impossible to see anything -- and, yes, author de Angelis is signaling very obviously that the mystery to follow will be similarly murky; he does not disappoint in that regard.
       The story begins with Commissioner for Public Safety Inspector Carlo De Vincenzi apparently manning the late shift -- which at least gives him time to get to some reading. De Vincenzi is introduced as a man with poetic sensibilities -- he repeatedly gets questioned why he became a cop -- and de Angelis quickly wants make clear just what kind of a man his protagonist is by, among other things, his reading material: a colleague suspects it's Pirandello, but the book he reaches for that evening is D.H.Lawrence's The Plumed Serpent (the two others in his drawer: "Plato's Eros and The Epistles of St. Paul").
       De Vincenzi gets a late-night visitor: after the opera -- Aida at La Scala -- Giannetto Aurigi drops by, looking troubled. And he is troubled: he owes a lot of money, which is now due, and though he is engaged to Count Marchionni's daughter, his precarious situation has put him in a near-impossible bind.
       Aurigi jokes that he hopes De Vincenzi can entertain him with the story of a good crime that might have come his way that day, but the telephone interrupts, calling De Vincenzi away to the scene of a crime. The problem ? The scene is Aurigi's apartment -- and the crime is the murder of the banker to whom he owed so much money.
       The banker was shot -- but a vial of poison is also discovered at the scene. And there's that odd fact that the clock is an hour fast .....
       Sure, Aurigi is the obvious suspect -- but De Vincenzi soon learns of quite a bit of coming and going in the house and apartment in the hours before (and/or after ?) the murder. Indeed, both Count Marchionni and Aurigi's fiancée dropped by .....
       As the Inspector who called De Vincenzi in on the case notes early on, the apparently clear-cut case of murder is a lot more complicated than it looks:

I'm telling you myself, this story has hardly begun.
       A lot is brought to light -- and matters are complicated by secrets many are keeping (including both Marchionnis). De Vincenzi could easily wrap the case up almost any way he wants -- but he's a truth-seeker, and wants to get to the bottom of this. Confessions -- by several parties -- be damned:
If the affair goes to the investigating magistrate, I can't do anything, because my intuition and my psychological impressions will have no weight. They'll be caught in a machine that will grind them up. Since I know they're innocent of the crime, I must attempt the impossible to save them !
       But, of course, his heroics pay off, as he neatly traps the perpetrator.
       Yes, much of this is old-fashioned, carefully staged (and occasionally overwritten ...) by de Angelis, De Vincenzi at times literally moving his suspects around like chess pieces. De Vincenzi is also presented as an intuitive detective, working by gut-feeling -- with his poet's mind ... -- but he's still professional enough that this doesn't get too annoying.
       De Angelis is of the school of writers who believe, as De Vincenzi says:
What is a crime, sir, when it's not a crime of passion ? It's a work of art ! A work perversely and criminally artistic.
       But de Angelis doesn't get caught up entirely in that -- The Murdered Banker also plays by the basic whodunnit procedural rules. It's a bit basic, a bit of its times (the 1930s !), but it also holds up surprisingly well.
       Sufficiently polished, sufficiently clever, The Murdered Banker is a fine little mystery and worthwhile rediscovery.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 March 2016

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The Murdered Banker: Reviews: Other books by Augusto De Angelis under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Augusto De Angelis lived 1888 to 1944.

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