Duca Lamberti used to be a doctor, until he was jailed for the mercy killing of a patient. Now, on his release from prison, his previous career is closed to him so he takes a position offered by a wealthy businessman to help cure his son Davide's alcoholism. In trying to find the cause of Davide's excessive drinking, Duca uncovers a sordid tale of prostitution and murder, and takes it upon himself to track down the mastermind behind it and bring him to justice. Along the way he enlists the help of Livia Ussaro, a young woman with a very strange outlook on life - seeing everything as an experiment.
First published in Italy in 1966 but only now available in an English translation, A Private Venus is the first of a crime series 'starring' Duca Lamberti. In some ways I thought its age was showing - not in the storyline and denouement but in its attitudes towards women and homosexuals. I suspect though that this is more a reflection of attitudes generally at the time rather than of the author's personal viewpoint. It's also a little less violent than maybe today's crime-reader is used to - the worst happening 'off-screen'.
In the introduction Scerbanenco is likened to Georges Simenon but I felt many of the plot elements to have more in common with Raymond Chandler, particularly the aspect of a city hiding crime beneath a veneer of respectability and wealth. The story moves along at a brisk pace as Lamberti peels back the surface layers to uncover the seedier world beneath, building to a nail-biting climax. An excellent discovery of 'classic crime' that I'm rather surprised hasn't been available here before.
Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Hersilia PressGenre - crime, adult fiction,
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