As with all these series, it's the background cast that provide the basis to keep the reader interested, particularly when there's not a lot happening as far as the investigation is concerned. 

Some of them are, more or less, predictable.

Piras, the Sardinian recruit looks like the inevitable off-sider and sounding board, while we also encounter the regulation quirky pathologist. Quirky pathologists seem to be de rigeur for any self-respecting crime series and crusty curmudgeon Diotivede fits the bill to a pathological T.

There would, one suspects, also be an ongoing place for the victim's brother around the dinner table which may prove to be one of the centre pieces of the series.

Some of the supporting characters who end up around the table for the drunken dinner that supplies the inspiration Bordelli needs to crack the case are less predictable.

Bordelli has an idiosyncratic attitude to law enforcement and a sympathy towards people who steal to feed themselves that's bound to create ongoing issues with his superiors, so it probably comes as no surprise to learn several of his closest acquaintances are petty criminals. 

There's an ex-convict with extraordinary culinary skills, a semiretired petty thief who turns out to be a useful odd job man, and a retired prostitute. As the basis for an ongoing series it's a cast that works rather well.

While it only runs to a tad over 200 pages (the volume's padded out with a chunk of the sequel, a fact that obscured the Translator's Notes we've come to expect where Santarelli's involved) Death in August is substantial enough to establish Bordelli as a figure worth following.

He comes across (at least to this reader, as in all cases your mileage may vary) as a likeable, idiosyncratic maverick, not a million miles from Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano in his social and political leanings, with a wartime background that should be a significant element as the rest of the series unfolds and offers all sorts of possibilities. 

He's compassionate, conscientious enough to see things through to the end, quite willing to take short cuts where necessary but inclined to keep hammering away until someone cracks where the short cut doesn't exist.

Having stated that it was Stephen Sartarelli's presence as translator that brought me to the series, while the story lacks some of the dialect issues you'd find with Camilleri and Catarella, the translation reads smoothly and there's little to indicate that the story wasn't originally written in English. He's a class act.

The second in the series, Death in the Olive Grove isn't due out in hardback until January next year, and based on the relative slimness of Death in August I'd be inclined to wait for the paperback for $15 from Fishpond, rather than the $22 they're asking for the hardback pre-order. 

Still, with the US paperback of Camilleri's The Potter's Field out later this month I'll have something to fill in part of the wait.

© Ian Hughes 2012