The book: Archanes, by Valerio Massimo Manfredi
The edition: Italian (original) edition as published by Mondadori, 201 pages
About the book & general thoughts: this is a collection of five short stories, very different one from the other. The general impression I had, was that each story would make a good novel in itself; as short stories they had too many threads to pull together nicely. They were overdone — or underdone, maybe. I was left with a general feeling of the author saying: “I can’t be bothered to think these ideas through”.
Language & writing: compared with previous works I read from this author, his prose seems more mature; I especially appreciated how he has left behind the overdetailed and preciously-worded descriptions. I spotted two awful (really awful) mistakes (and I always wonder how a published author can make such errors/horrors, and how a published book can be printed without anyone catching them) — enough to make me cringe and throw the book aside for some time!
About Archanes: halfway between an archaeological mystery (which Manfredi is well-versed in) and a study in thriller settings. Way too many things to count with in such a short story. It is set in the village of the same name in Crete, which I visited, and that may be the only reason why we bought this book: the place and the island are finely described.
About Limes: Manfredi’s other talent are historical settings, and here he describes the situation in Italy under Langobard rule. This is the only story I really liked — it includes a nicely done historical setting, a well-rendered feeling of the unstable situation at that time, and also enough family mysteries to make it a page-turner.
About Gli dei dell’impero (The Empire’s Gods): staging the Italian police force against the theft of archaeological remains, it is a quick adventure story.
About Midget War and Millennium Arena: in these two last stories, Manfredi tries his hand at two completely new genres: a thriller and a spy story. He’d better stick with what he’s good at: these two read as badly drafted film scripts.
Counts as: Travel with books – Greece; Travel with books – Rome; Italy in books.