Superintendent Teresa Battaglia, a criminal profile expert, is in her sixties, overweight, lonely, diabetic, full of the ailments of ageing — and delightful. It’s rare that such a character enters crime fiction for the first time, and with such gripping impact. Flowers Over the Inferno is also a debut for her creator. Ilaria Tuti lives in Friuli, where the novel is set, that bit of Italy bordering Austria, where the Alps are spectacular, sparsely populated and sinister... Altogether beguiling.
It’s creepy and evocative enough – albeit with a tendency to melodrama – but what gives this novel particular appeal is the sixtysomething central character, whose abrasive manner hides a warm heart. The survivor of an abusive relationship, she finds herself battling against the encroachments of old age as well as fighting her corner in a male-dominated profession.