Written by Bill Rogers — After a career in education, helping improve schools in the Manchester area, Bill Rogers decided to become a crime author. He mainly writes police procedurals featuring the upstanding DCI Tom Caton. Publishing them himself, he’s become an accomplished and bestselling author with a loyal fan base among Amazon book buyers. Rogers is a great inspiration to other new writers wanting to reach a crime fiction loving audience.
A Venetian Moon is the ninth mystery in the Caton series and finds the detective on honeymoon in Venice with his wife Kate. She’s already pregnant and the holiday takes her away from her day job – she profiles serial killers. From Agatha Christie to Murder She Wrote, you know what happens when people who solve murders go on holiday, don’t you? So one romantic evening down by a canal they happen upon some young Italians who have found a corpse. The fish have had a nibble.
The body had been weighted down with bags of salt, ensuring it would bob up a few days later after the salt had dissolved. Typical mafia style. But what they don’t expect is that the victim is actually a young British-Italian back in Venice on business. After making a statement, the Catons head home to Manchester, but they’re followed a few days later by Commissario Umberto Bonifati and his alluring assistant Sovrintendente Caterina Volpe. Caton plays host to them in Manchester and together they question the dead man’s family and work colleagues. He was a bit of a playboy but doesn’t seem linked to the crime syndicates. So, why sink him in that fashion?
It soon emerges that Bonifati has another agenda. As interested as he is in the canal murder he also has two European arrest warrants for known mafia bosses hiding out in the Manchester area under false identities. In between semi-translated conversations, numerous inferior coffees, meals in Italian restaurants and meetings with macho senior investigators in the organised crime unit, Caton accompanies Bonifati on two raids. One mafia bigwig slips through their fingers, the other gets nabbed. Meanwhile, in a third storyline, Caton’s younger female colleague DS Stuart investigates a drugs death in a Manchester nightclub.
There’s definitely something up between Bonifati and Volpe, but Caton can’t put his finger on it. Is Bonifati a stereotypically sexist Italian cop who will only give Volpe menial jobs because she’s a woman? Or is something else going on? And why does Volpe stand a little too close to Caton half the time even though he’s married? Well that’s the least of his worries when an armed shootout occurs between mafia factions at a motorway services just outside the city.
The shootout becomes a stand-off and that’s when things turn from interesting to intense. Rogers has a realistic understanding of how these events shake out, involving SWAT teams, helicopters, marksmen, ambulances and negotiators, as well as serious injuries to the participants. From there Caton and his Italian counterparts have a task mopping up the mafia turf war before trying to solve the murder back in Venice.
A Venetian Moon is certainly a solidly written procedural that’s been edited and printed to a high standard. Rogers has meticulously researched the police set-up and modus operandi in both the UK and Italy, and even brings in the machinations behind the UK’s emerging National Crime Agency. However, with all the ins and outs explained along the way the book does lack pace for stretches – particularly in the first half. Caton’s a clean cop, with a bit of a past but no major flaws. Perhaps it lacks a little edginess here and there. If you’re an Italophile you’ll certainly enjoy all the references to Bonifati’s homeland and language, mixed in with the Manchester local knowledge. There’s a good sprinkling of references to Italian crime fiction too – from Camilleri back to the giallo pulp books.
Caton Books Ltd
CFL Rating: 3 Stars