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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Mystery of
the Three Orchids

Augusto De Angelis

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To purchase The Mystery of the Three Orchids

Title: The Mystery of the Three Orchids
Author: Augusto De Angelis
Genre: Novel
Written: 1942 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 188 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Mystery of the Three Orchids - US
The Mystery of the Three Orchids - UK
The Mystery of the Three Orchids - Canada
Le mystère des trois orchidées - France
Il mistero delle tre orchidee - Italia
  • Italian title: Il mistero delle tre orchidee
  • Translated by Jill Foulston

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Our Assessment:

B- : too perfunctory treatment, of too much

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Mail . 29/9/2016 Barry Turner

  From the Reviews:
  • "A stylish policeman with a lively intelligence, De Vincenzi earns his place in the detectivesí hall of fame." - Barry Turner, Daily Mail

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Mystery of the Three Orchids begins promisingly enough, with Milan fashion house owner Cristiana O'Brian getting a huge shock at the elite fashion show she is hosting. In the audience, she sees a woman from her past, connected to a man from her past, Russell Sage -- a man who must have been looking for her, and who must now have found her. Trying to gather herself, she flees to her bedroom in the same building -- and finds a strangled man lying on her bed. And an orchid.
       Because of the layout of the house, and the preparations for the show, it seems no one from outside could have committed the murder, so Inspector De Vincenzi can be fairly certain that the killer comes from among the fashion house's inner circle. Confirmation comes when there's a second murder, "committed practically under his nose", during the course of his investigations in the house. There's another orchid at the scene, too, confirming the connection between the crimes.
       People aren't necessarily who they seem in The Mystery of the Three Orchids: 'Cristiana O'Brian' is only the latest name of a woman who has travelled far and wide, and has only been in Milan operating her fashion house for the past two years; associate Prospero O'Lary's name is not much more convincing. And then there's her former husband -- yes, she was married to Russell Sage, who now introduces himself as 'John Bolton' but was once better known -- or at least more notorious -- as American gangster 'Edward Moran'.
       The set-up isn't bad -- and gets better when it turns out that Cristiana O'Brian isn't just running a fashion house, but rather has found a way to supplement her income, which could certainly go towards one or another of the possible motives for what is now happening. But her husband, and his presence here, is obviously at the center of things -- as also becomes clearer when there's a (not entirely unexpected) third murder. Complete, again, with orchid.
       As De Vincenzi sums up at one point -- not particularly helpfully:

     Listen to me, Signora. What has happened in this house over the last ten hours isn't only tragic, it's frightening, grotesque and absurd.
       Set over a mere two days, and largely in the building that houses the fashion house, The Mystery of the Three Orchids is a busy little novel, with comings and goings of characters across scenes and rooms as De Vincenzi has to figure out who could have been where, beginning with the first murder, which he realizes is unlikely to have been committed where the body was found. And there are also those distracting orchids, which beg for an explanation; at least these De Vincenzi can use in trying to get the guilty party to reveal themselves.
       De Vincenzi isn't the most reassuring of investigators here. He has a gut feeling but, for a long time, little proof. And it doesn't help that bodies keep appearing. The best he can offer is:
     Stay calm, Madame Firmino. Calm ! Nothing has happened and nothing will happen ... maybe.
       The Mystery of the Three Orchids is jerkily-paced, and almost never settles into any sort of rhythm. Too often, De Angelis doesn't seem to be sure what to do with all the different characters and ideas he's juggling. And even where he gets a bit more reflective, he doesn't follow through particularly well -- and/or throws out uncomfortable statements that he really should be doing more with, one way or another:
He knew that a sudden, unexpected question can take a man by surprise, but a woman, never. Lying and distraction come easily to women; their deviousness is automatic.
       De Angelis doesn't seem entirely comfortable in the confines of the fashion house where he sets most of this mystery, and it feels like he's overextending himself with these many foreigners -- almost cartoon-character criminals, especially of the Chicago-1920s/30s sort. The resolution -- not one readers are likely to have guessed -- is okay, but like the rest of the book feels a bit perfunctory. All in all it makes for a story that has some decent color and twists, but is ultimately pretty forgettable.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 January 2017

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The Mystery of the Three Orchids: 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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© 2017-2020 the complete review

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