Abruzzo Intrigue by Bluette Matthey



Abruzzo Intrigue

By Bluette Matthey


Hardy Durkin, owner of Durkin Tours brings a group of American middle-aged hikers to Abruzzo for a ten-day tour where they experience the unique culture, food and history of the region. Some of the characters are who they seem to be, but some are not. One member of the group, a grieving widow, plans to steal a precious religious relic from a church in Lanciano. The book is a collision of values and traditions while hiking through the often-overlooked beauty of ancient Abruzzo.



This book is a fusion of an Agatha Christie detective novel with a unique travel guide. A murder or two, a robbery, drama and colourful suspects. Even Guiseppe, the minibus driver behaves in a furtive way. It is quite a complex plot, twisting and turning to heighten the intrigue. The backdrop is the ‘green heart’ of Europe, the region of Abruzzo so there are many references to many places which the reader would find familiar. We are told that the enigmatic Hardy Durkin, an athletic and capable twenty-eight-year-old, started his tour business to attract wealthy, professional and upper management Americans. These were the people who wanted a healthy trek by day but good food, culture and creature comforts at the days end. The first night takes place at Sei Stelle in Sulmona, just off Corso Ovidio where all the guests meet each other for the first time and enjoy a typical Abruzzese supper of chitarra pasta, polenta in a spicy sausage ragu and local lamb served with carafes of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo.

“The combination of glorious food and wine worked their inevitable magic.”

Hardy’s well organised trail leads the hikers to places like Rocca Calascio, Santo Stefano di Sessanio, Caramanico Terme and Scanno. They even enjoy a day at the beach in Pescara. The tour minibus parks outside Hotel Salus. The reader is as captivated with the scenery and the wildlife as the hikers, yet there is a sense of foreboding as a veil of mystery seems to surround some of the characters. Danger is also looming. As the walkers ascend the Holy Staircase at the hermitage of San Bartolomeo, a stone boulder is hurled at one of the hikers who collapses in a heap with a bloody gash to his head. There are many threads running through the book which give a hearty substance to the plot. Not surprisingly, a mafia element in the book and a connection to the drug barons of Albania gives credence to organised crime activity, extortion and some brutality. Another component, crucial to the plot is the importance of religious artifacts and how differently they may be viewed as relevant in today’s society. One evening, over dinner, the group discusses this.

“Ancient relics must be available to the public, I think. What good are they all locked up where no-one can see them?”

“The Vatican hides lots of loot away from the laity but many small churches in Italy have artifacts on display which must be a source of inspiration for the worshippers, or robbers!”

“That would be a serious sacrilege against God and your soul would be forfeit!”


Why I recommend this book

I really enjoyed this book. The title does not disappoint.  It has suspense, intrigue and a little romance with a touch of dry humour in parts. Two of the hikers are twin sisters and have a passion for knitting. Not out of the ordinary until the reader learns that one of the knitting needles has been honed to deadly sharp point and is in fact an assassin’s weapon.  I commend the level of historical fact and detail in the book which is quite remarkable and shows incredible insight and research done for the book. From the history of the Abruzzo chamois and how they were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1920’s to the red gold saffron extracted from the crocuses grown on the Navelli plain. The author cleverly uses her tour guide, Durkin to provide fascinating information about the unique wildlife, plant species and history and culture of the region to his group of hikers.



A 3rd generation Swiss American and an avid lover of European culture, Bluette has decades of travel and writing experience. She believes that walking and hiking bring her closer to the real life of any locale.



Published by Blue Shutter Publishing 2014

Paperback and e-book available on Amazon



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