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review 2020-08-20 10:02
Marco Malvaldi - La briscola in cinque
La briscola in cinque - Marco Malvaldi

During the lockdown me and my parents got into a tv series, "I delitti del Bar Lume" (The murders of the Bar Lume, barlume meaning "glimmer" or "spark", and being a pun about the name of a bar). It's a comedy/whodunit series that follows the investigations on a series of murders that happen in the fictional small Tuscan town of Pineta. All cases are usually solved either by or with the help of Massimo, the owner of the above mentioned Bar Lume.

 

Personally, I found the writing of the tv series perfectly average, especially as it went on and focused more on comedy and (not particularly well done) character development than the investigations. However, the great casting made the series actually enjoyable, and more than made up for the flaws in the script. Out of curiosity, I decided to pick up the first of the books on which the series is based, in part to compare and contrast and because I enjoy a good detective story during the summer.

 

Overall, this was a very solid comedic whodunit. The plot is overall the same (a small town murder, whose resolution is made slightly difficult by the fact that everyone in the town thinks they know everything about everyone else), but the style of humour is definitely the main difference between the source material and the series, much more subtle in the book.

 

The biggest surprise was how the characters were quite different, I guess to make them work better in a more comedic environment - for example, in the book the chief of police is Vinicio Fusco, a middle-aged, self-absorbed and slightly thick man, while in the tv series the character is a woman, Vittoria Fusco, in her late thirties/early forties, no-nonsense to the point of being abrasive, who's constantly passed over for promotions by incompent men, in part because of sexism and her general attitude towards other people. Another huge difference is how Massimo Viviani, the main character, in the series is pretty much a loser who happens to get lucky in frequent but very short bursts, while he's much more dignified in the book.

 

The title of the book refers to the game of "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briscola">Briscola</a>", a card game that's commonly played in bars by elderly people. It's usually played in even numbered groups of people, so the version that's played in this story is a completely made up one where, instead of people playing in teams of two, everybody is playing against everyone else - something that is used for the obligatory epiphany moment that Massimo has about the real culprit towards the end.

 

As a whodunit, it's solidly written, though nothing mindblowing, and the more subtle writing makes the reading more interesting and gripping. A good read, not just for summer.

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