Original date of publication: 1965
My edition: 2009 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: All Virago/All August
How I acquired my copy: Watersone’s, Piccadilly, London, September 2011
The Flight of the Falcon is one of Daphne du Maurier’s later suspense novels. Published just after The Glass-Blowers (1963) and before The House on the Strand (1969), The Flight of the Falcon is set in Rome and the town of Ruffano, Italy. Armino Fabbio is a tour guide, or courier, shepherding tourists from England and America (the Beef and Barbarians) throughout the Italian countryside.
One evening, he gives 10,000 lire to an old beggar woman in the street, who he later finds out was a) murdered and b) was his old childhood nurse. Deciding to investigate, Armino goes to his childhood hometown, Ruffano, where the town’s university has blossomed. Taking a job as a library assistant, Armino uncovers a secret relating to his own past. All of this is linked to an event, or mystery, that happened in Ruffano over 400 years previously.
I’ll say it over and over; Daphne du Maurier really understood how to create an atmospheric, suspenseful novel. One of the things I love about this book is that you can feel the tension between Armino and Aldo, although Armino doesn’t explicitly say so. This isn’t du Maurier’s strongest novel; there are some predictable elements to the plot. I also didn’t care much for the narrator, who seems to allow things to happen to him rather than being an integral part of the plot. Aldo was a much more interesting, compelling character. It was also highly unlikely to me that, as an apparent stranger to Ruffano, Armino would get so involved in the lives of the town’s inhabitants and students so quickly. But du Maurier’s talent for writing fast-paced, descriptive prose is unequaled. If you’re new to du Maurier’s writing, though, I’d start with another one of her novels first.