A Happy 10th Anniversary to Death in the High City

Successful decade for Bergamo’s first British crime novel 

Death in the High City, the first detective novel written in English to be set in Bergamo in Lombardy, was published ten years ago this summer. 

The novel came out in Kindle format in May 2014 and a paperback version was released in July 2014.

It has since sold copies in the UK, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, America, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. 

To mark the tenth anniversary, East Wind Publishing have issued a new edition of the mystery with a front cover showing Bergamo’s historic Via Colleoni at night. The street in the Città Alta, Bergamo’s upper town, features as a key location in the novel.

Referred to as un romanzo giallo in Italian, Death in the High City centres on the investigation into the death of an English woman who was staying in the Città Alta in Bergamo while working on a biography she was writing of the opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born and died in the city. 

The novel was the first in a series to feature the characters of Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and Steve Bartorelli, a retired Detective Chief Inspector, who is of partly Italian descent. 

The dead woman had been living in an apartment in Bergamo’s Città Alta and much of the action takes place within the walls of the upper town. At first the local police do not believe there is enough evidence to open a murder enquiry and so journalist Kate Butler, the victim’s cousin, arrives in Bergamo to try to get some answers about her relative’s death. 

Kate visits many of the places in Bergamo with Donizetti connections and her enquiries also take her to nearby Lago d’Iseo and into the countryside around San Pellegrino Terme. But after her own life is threatened and there has been another death in the Città Alta, her partner, Steve Bartorelli, joins her to help unravel the mystery and trap the killer.

The reader can enjoy Bergamo’s wonderful architecture and scenery from the comfort of their own armchair, while savouring the many descriptions in the novel of local food and wine. 

Author Val Culley has been delighted with the level of interest shown both at home and in Italy in what was her first novel.

She was invited to present Death in the High City to an audience in San Pellegrino Terme and sign copies of the book, as a guest at the fifth anniversary celebrations of Bergamo Su e Giù, a group of independent tour guides based in the city. During the evening, she was presented with a book about San Pellegrino Terme by the town’s mayor. 

Val has also made two appearances on Bergamo TV to talk about the novel with presenter Teo Mangione during his daily breakfast programme. During one of her visits to the studios, she presented a copy of the book to the Mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, who took office the year the novel was published. Val was invited to Bergamo for a further visit by the Cambridge Institute to give a talk about Death in The High City to a group of 80 Italian teachers of English and to sign copies for them. 

She has also formally presented a copy of Death in the High City to the Biblioteca Civica (Civic Library), a beautiful 16th century building in white marble, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, situated in Piazza Vecchia, a location that features frequently in the novel.

Val was later invited to give a talk about Death in the High City at a sixth form college in Zogno, a comune in Valle Brembana set in beautiful countryside in the hills above Bergamo. 

She has given talks about Death in the High City to members of the Dante Alighieri Society in Nottingham and members of Voglia d’Italia, a society for Italy enthusiasts in south Yorkshire. 

Another highlight was when the New York Times referred to Death in the High City in a travel feature about Bergamo. 

The book has been purchased by Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire Libraries for the benefit of their readers and is available for sale on both Amazon and Waterstones on line. The novel will interest readers who enjoy the ‘cosy’ crime fiction genre or like detective stories with an Italian setting.

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