The art of failure

The private detective Elia Contini predominantly makes his living from finding pets and tracking down the culprits of minor thefts. Things become complicated when he is tasked with finding Mario, the co-owner of a furniture company, who has disappeared. Although the missing person soon returns to the family business, nothing can be done to prevent the company from falling into bankruptcy. A lunatic is on a murder spree in the company’s environs. Both the Ticino police force and the private detective find themselves in the dark until the latter comes across the contentious issue of wagedumping – low wages paid to cross-border commuters – in the course of his investigations. Could this be the key to solving the murders?

In his new crime novel, the author Andrea Fazioli is not showing the most attractive side of Ticino, the sunniest part of Switzerland. The lugubrious mood is captivating and keeps readers gripped right to the end. The violent crimes are appalling but they are not described in bloody detail. The blossoming of a tender love story helps to brighten the mood somewhat. No tourists appear in the story. The main characters are local people in their working environment and cross-border commuters from nearby Italy. The petty crimes, which Contini resolves in-between with the help of his “eternal fiancée”, are cleverly interwoven with the murder cases in an almost symbolic way.

Fazioli creates the existence-threatening scenario of professional and private failure with great subtlety and humour. The original title in Italian is “L’arte del fallimento” (“The art of failure”). Detecting this art is left up to the reader. Stylistically the author focuses on dialogue and a neutral narrative perspective. This novel is quick and easy to read but will nevertheless reverberate with readers. Like all of Fazioli’s crime novels, in which Contini is the rather eccentric but likeable main character, this one too cannot be consumed purely as entertainment and then put away.

Andrea Fazioli was born in 1978 in Bellinzona where he also works today as a freelance writer. He studied French and Italian at the University of Zurich and worked as a journalist in radio and television. A number of his novels have been translated into German, French and other languages. This crime novel will be published in German in 2018 by the btb-Verlag publishing house in Munich.

Ruth von Gunten

Andrea Fazioli: “L’arte del fallimento”. Ugo Guanda Editore, 2016, 288 pages, around € 18.

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