Book report: Suzanne Vermeer ‘Bella Italia’
Bella Italia is a book by the Dutch writer Suzanne Vermeer, who is known for her holiday thrillers All inclusive, Cruise, Après-ski, De suite and Zwarte piste. Suzanne Vermeer is the pseudonym of author Paul Goeken (1962-2011) who died of cancer at the age of 48. In Bella Italia, Hans, Petra and their son Niels go on a trip to a campsite in Italy, which is quite a challenge for Hans, who nevertheless enjoys luxury and also has trouble letting go of his son. But Niels gets the chance to hang out alone with his friends on the campsite. Until the evening when he comes back late and after a search is found next to the body of one of his friends.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Title explanation
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: Bella Italia
- Author: Suzanne Vermeer
- First press: 2011
- Number of pages: 226
- ISBN: 978-90-229-9987-5
At the request of their son Niels, Hans and Petra decide to camp, they choose a mobile home at a campsite on Lake Garda in Italy. At the campsite Niels soon becomes friends with Thijs, who is staying not far from them, the Irish Connor and the German boy Mats.
Hans is concerned and has difficulty giving his son the opportunity to go out with his friends. But Petra and Thijs’s parents convince him to let go and trust the children. Thijs and Niels leave for the evening entertainment every evening and are back at the agreed time, while the parents have a drink together.
Until the evening when Thijs comes back alone and explains that Niels had left with Mats. Worried, Hans and Petra go looking for Niels. Hans finds Mats lying on the floor, next to a man dressed scruffy, who says something in Italian and then walks away. Hans discovers Niels a little further, who only whispers ‘I couldn’t do anything about it’. Hans checks Mats to the ground and discovers he is dead. He furiously chases the tramp, who jumps into the water out of fear and drowns by a false fall.
The family is taken to the police for questioning. But when it is Niels’ turn, he is completely in a panic and cannot tell anything. Detective Carlo Martuccia, who is in charge of the investigation, does not understand why Niels is silent when the possible culprit is dead. But they let Hans and his family leave for home.
Back in the Netherlands, Hans and Petra notice that their son is still quiet and says nothing about the evening. Irene, Niels’ therapist, explains to Hans and Petra that she cannot force anything and that they must be patient. But she is convinced that Niels is hiding something and is somehow unable or unwilling to tell. Not only Niels had his worries, it is also difficult for Hans and Petra. Both are irritated, which is starting to cause problems in their relationship. Petra decides to go to therapy with Irene in the hope of saving her family.
Detective Carlo Martuccia is still not convinced that the tramp Ottavio Galli killed the child. His fingerprints had been found on the body along with Hans’s, but not as a stranglehold. Indicating that the killer had used gloves.
When Hans and Petra see an article stating that another boy has been murdered on a campsite near the campsite where they were on Lake Garda, with many similarities to the murder of Mats, they decide to ask Niels what happened. They convince him by explaining that murders could still follow.
Niels is scared but tells them that Mats wanted to smoke a cigarette and had asked Niels to watch the bikes in the meantime. As soon as Niels realized that he would be late, Niels went to see where Mats was. In the bushes he met a man, Salvatore, who was sitting on Mats. He grabbed Niels and covered his mouth with one hand and pointed at him with the other hand and slashed his throat with his finger. And then he left. Niels, unaware that Mats was dead, had stayed with him. When he heard a rustle, he feared that Salvatore had returned and hid. But it was another man, the wanderer, and then Hans had come.
Petra comforts her son and promises him that the man will not find him. But Hans and Petra know that this information is important to the case and decide to pass it on to Detective Carlo Martuccia. When they do, the detective asks to come to Italy as soon as possible. They agree on the condition that they are protected and guided.
In the meantime, they also try to enjoy themselves and go to eat something, until suddenly Niels recognizes the killer among the crowd and Hans tries in vain to chase him. Salvatore manages to escape, but he knows he made a mistake last summer by letting Niels live. So now he would make sure that the boy cannot betray him.
During the line-up, neither Niels nor Hans recognize the culprit, which means that he is still free and a danger to Niels. So the police ensures security at the hotel. But Salvatore, in disguise, manages to kill the security and surprise the family in their hotel room. Detective Carlo Martuccia, who is now at the hotel, notices that something is wrong and arrives at the room just in time. When he notices that Salvatore wants to jump off the balcony, he shoots him, causing him to lose his balance and fall.
Petra forces Niels to look at the dead man to show him that the nightmare is over. Later it goes much better with Niels. Especially when he goes fishing with his best friend and Hans during the holidays.
He is a physiotherapist and has been married for thirteen years to Petra, who owns a fashion store. Niels is the eleven-year-old son of Hans and Petra.
Detective Carlo Martuccia
He is married to Ciarra and together they have a son Gianni.
Symbols and motifs
Hans is furious when he notices that the police have questions about his son’s behavior. Can’t they understand that Niels was afraid when he saw his friend murdered?
Hans is unsure whether they are all doing well with Niels. Because he feels that nothing is improving with his son and they keep walking in circles.
Both Hans and Petra want to fight for their families and do everything they can to see Niels happy and to see that he and their partner are doing well.
The title Bella Italia is the link to the location where everything takes place. The cover has little to do with the story, except that it makes it clear that it is holiday reading and the story’s location is Lake Garda.
Don’t be fooled by your first impression.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The story consists of 226 pages, which are divided into 46 chapters. Some chapters have the month in which the story takes place as the title. The story presents the point of view of Hans, Ottavio Galli, Detective Carlo Martuccia, Petra, Niels’ karate teacher and Salvatore Patronello, written in third person.
Time and place
The story takes place from February to the following year in August in Baarn, La Regina di Garda: a campsite on Lake Garda, Verona and Perscheria in Italy.
Those who love this genre will certainly enjoy this book, but a thriller reader will have difficulty with the fast turns and the slow rhythm of the build-up to the tension. Bella Italia is an ideal holiday book, with some excitement in it. But it is noticeable that the tension is fast, only to linger when the family leaves Italy and returns when the family returns to Italy to solve the second murder. As far as the characters are concerned, you get little information, so the depth is somewhat lacking. Suzanne Vermeer’s books are very recognizable by her own writing style and structure of the story. Not a high flyer, but ok for reading by the pool.