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Wednesday 26 January 2022

‘The Hunting Season’ by Tom Benjamin

Published by Constable,
13th May 2021.
ISBN 978-1-47213161-4

The Hunting Season is the second novel which features Daniel Leicester, an English expat working as a private detective in his father-in-law’s family-run agency in Bologna. Although I have not (yet) read the first book in this series, I had no problem reading this as a stand-alone.

The story revolves around Daniel’s investigation into the disappearance of a ‘supertaster’. Ryan Lee is a young Korean-American who has the skills to identify counterfeit truffles that are being smuggled in from Eastern Europe and which are threatening to undermine the local trade of lucrative Boscuri white truffles that are prized above all others. Ryan visited many of the restaurants in the area before he went missing, but Daniel discovers that few people seem keen to co-operate with his enquiries. The situation becomes more complicated when one of the major figures in the Italian food world is found dead on the ground below his study window at the top of a tower. Things become more desperate for Daniel when a second death occurs, and Daniel is accused of the murder. Daniel realises that the only way to clear himself is to find Ryan and he has only twenty-four hours to do so before he is taken back into custody.

The reader quickly finds him- or herself transported to a darker world of suspicion, immigrant prejudice and exploitation, and organised crime. Set against this on the plus side, is the Italian strong sense of family loyalty that shines through the novel. Also evident is the Italian love of food that takes precedence above almost everything else. Written in the first person, Daniel’s observations of Italian customs, attitudes and way of life could only come from a writer who, like his protagonist, is an Englishman who has chosen to live and work in Bologna.

The characters are superbly drawn from Daniel, his teenage daughter, his father-in-law, to my particular favourite, new recruit to the agency Dolores.

What struck me most about this novel was its vivid literary style, so unusual in a crime novel. Tom Benjamin takes his time creating memorable pictures of landscapes such as the untamed Emilian countryside, something that would normally annoy me, but I was happy to slow down and enjoy the peace before the fast pace of the action began again.

Written by a man who obviously loves his adopted environment, he has the ability to make the reader virtually smell the traditional produce in those grocers’ shops that have remained unchanged for generations. I can highly recommend The Hunting Season.

Reviewer: Judith Cranswick

Tom Benjamin  started off as a reporter covering crime in North London. After a stint on the nationals, he joined Scotland Yard as one of its famous spokesmen. He went on to pursue a career in international aid before emigrating to Italy, where he credits his language skills on the time he spent working as a bouncer on the door of a homeless canteen. A Quiet Death in Italy, the first in a series featuring Bologna-based gumshoe Daniel Leicester, was published in ebook by Little, Brown in November 2019, and in paperback in May 2020. Book Two in the series, The Hunting Season, will be published in November 2020.

Judith Cranswick was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’

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