Some books work on a higher plane than most others, offering the reader flights of immense pleasure. This is one of them. "Blood Curse: The Springtime...moreSome books work on a higher plane than most others, offering the reader flights of immense pleasure. This is one of them. "Blood Curse: The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi" is the second book in Maurizio de Giovanni's acclaimed noir series set in 1931 Naples featuring the author's haunted detective Luigi Ricciardi. Haunted is the key word here. Ricciardi sees people at the moment of their death, when occasioned by violence. He hears their last lament. To Ricciardi's mind, this is a curse, one he has no choice but to endure. He has only one friend, his partner at the police station, and his emotions are held in check, for how can he commit to a love relationship, when he lives surrounded by violence and terrible visions?
BUT! Not to fear. Of course there is a young woman Ricciardi yearns for from afar--just across the window from the small apartment he shares with his devoted housekeeper and former nursemaid, who adores him and cares for him like a doting mother. At the end of the day, weary with investigating murder and mayhem, Ricciardi stands just out of sight of the bespeckled Enrica as she tidies her family's kitchen and sits down to embroider. This is his silent life. As the books progress, so does Enrica and Ricciardi's relationship. In one of the later books, he decides action is called for; it is time to take the first step in revealing his deep feelings for the girl who, though so close in distance from him is "so far away he might as well be on the surface of the moon." And so, what does Ricciardi do? Why, he gathers pen and paper and sits down to write her a formal letter, introducing himself.
I notice I am describing emotions and character. In this series, De Giovanni's characters are irresistible as readers follow them from book to book (and although this is the second title, I have read all five, in addition to a chilling, contemporary stand-alone set in Naples titled "The Crocodile.") All are excellent.
For those wanting some notion of the plot, here is the summary from the author's Goodreads page:
Naples, 1931. In a working class apartment in the Sanita’ neighborhood an elderly woman by the name of Carmela Calise has been beaten to death. When Ricciardi and Maione arrive at the scene they start asking the neighbors questions. No one wants to talk but slowly a few interesting facts slip out. Carmela Calise was moonlighting as a fortuneteller and moneylender. In her decrepit apartment she would receive clients, among them some of the city’s rich and powerful, predicting their futures in such a way as to manipulate and deceive. If economic ruin lurked in their futures, Calise was happy to help. For a price, of course. She had many enemies, those indebted to her, manipulated by her lies, disappointed by her prophesies or destroyed by her machinations. Murder suspects in this atmospheric thriller abound and Commissario Ricciardi, one of the most original and intriguing investigators in contemporary crime fiction, will have his work cut out for him."
As always, the translation by Antony Shugaar is seamless.
Amazing. The first in the Commissario Ricciardi series set in 1930s Naples. Homicide detective Ricciardi has visions--he sees the final seconds in the...moreAmazing. The first in the Commissario Ricciardi series set in 1930s Naples. Homicide detective Ricciardi has visions--he sees the final seconds in the lives of victims of violent deaths. The writing sings in these clever, character-driven novels. No wonder this (as of now) four-book series is a runaway hit in Europe. Available in English translations for a short while now. Very highly recommended. (less)
An entertaining historical mystery set in fourteenth-century England, "The Unquiet Bones" by Mel Starr introduces Hugh de Singleton, the fourth and la...moreAn entertaining historical mystery set in fourteenth-century England, "The Unquiet Bones" by Mel Starr introduces Hugh de Singleton, the fourth and last son of a minor knight from the country of Lancashire, who, while attending Oxford, decides that rather than law, he will move to Paris and study surgery. And so it is as a surgeon he is called to tend to his patient, Lord Gilbert, lord of Bampton Castle. Impressed by Hugh's skills, Gilbert asks him to look in on two villeins who need care, and then implores him to quit Oxford for Bampton, where he will be the only surgeon for miles around.
Clients! And his own abode, courtesy of the wealthy lord! Hugh readily agrees and soon finds himself examining the bones of a young woman who has been murdered and her corpse hidden in the cesspit at the base of Bampton Castle wall. Reluctantly at first, at Lord Gilbert's request, Hugh agrees to investigate and embarks on a case that will involve not one young lass, but two, a rapacious knight and his squire, and a traveling minstrel show.
The book contains eye-opening forays into medieval surgery, a doomed (we assume) romance for Hugh, justice when it is deserved (but not without some nail-biting along the way), and the promise of more adventures to come. In fact, this is the first chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon, with the seventh chronicle ("The Abbot’s Agreement") coming in November (2014). (less)
Set in late 16th-century and present-day France, The Collector of Dying Breaths continues the tale of mythologist Jac L’Etoile, whose beloved brother,...moreSet in late 16th-century and present-day France, The Collector of Dying Breaths continues the tale of mythologist Jac L’Etoile, whose beloved brother, Robbie, lying desperately ill in the hospital, implores her to complete the secret work he has begun with a mysterious woman named Melinoe Cypros. At first Jac resists Robbie’s plea since that would mean embracing her ability to access past-life memories, which she desperately does not want to do. Soon enough, however, in a story told alongside that of René le Florentine, the Italian perfumer to Queen Catherine de’ Medici in 1500s France, Jac and her ex-lover, Griffin North, find themselves drawn into a centuries-old quest to unlock the secret to immortality.
René le Florentine is desperate to reanimate his dead lover, Isabeau, one of Queen Catherine’s “flying squadron” of female spies, who are as smart as they are beautiful. Present-day Melinoe Cypros is a wealthy art collector determined to hold her precious collection by her side, now and in her next life. But how? By discovering the secret of reanimating the dying breaths they have collected in jars – to do that, they must create the alchemical solution, or elixir, for which there is an as yet unfinished formula.
Reincarnation, poison, magic, astrology and deft descriptions of the whys and wherefores of the fascinating world of fragrances waft their way through this tale of greed, love lost and regained, and the passionate search for immortality in a lush story sure to please the many readers who have awaited this latest entry in the popular Jac L’Etoile series. (Originally reviewed for the May 2014 Issue of the "Historical Novels Review.")(less)
For the Historical Novel Society Review: "Editor's Choice," Set in 1930s Naples, Italy, Everyone in Their Place features a remarkable protagonist in t...moreFor the Historical Novel Society Review: "Editor's Choice," Set in 1930s Naples, Italy, Everyone in Their Place features a remarkable protagonist in the shape of Commissario Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi. Ricciardi is a solitary soul. He seldom speaks. When he does it is with a cool irony that most fail to understand. He is an enigma, one his fellow police officers fear while respecting his ability to solve murder investigations. No one knows Ricciardi has visions. He sees and hears the final seconds in the lives of victims of violent deaths. Thus, he has closed himself off emotionally. How can he involve people – a lover – in his private torments?
In this utterly delightful and compelling novel, a wealthy duchess has been murdered. Ricciardi means to find her killer, despite his commanding officer’s warning not to offend her privileged Neapolitan family. As Ricciardi stubbornly continues his investigation during the sweltering Neapolitan summer, we meet the many characters who come alive in the story. The author admirably puts each in their place, from Ricciardi’s indefatigable partner, Brigadier Maione – who is convinced his wife is having an affair with the local fruit vendor – to the duchess’ stepson, who loathed the murdered woman and mocks her death at her funeral dressed in a white suit and red tie and sporting a splendid gardenia in his lapel.
The author’s gentle touch has Ricciardi trading shy waves from his bedroom window with the pretty young woman who sits embroidering in the sitting room of her home across the way each night. This, even as his visions continue: a young boy killed in a car accident on the way for ice cream, the murdered duchess’ last lament.
This is the third book in this wonderfully original series, which is a runaway hit in Europe. Adding to this particular title’s virtues is Antony Shugaar’s seamless translation from the Italian. Very highly recommended.
Loved this book, the third in Italian author Marco Vichi's series set in 1960s Florence, Italy. Wry Inspector Bordelli and his cronies are back in a n...moreLoved this book, the third in Italian author Marco Vichi's series set in 1960s Florence, Italy. Wry Inspector Bordelli and his cronies are back in a novel that calls on dark memories of the war and Fascism in Italy. All is leavened with great dollops of droll humor and companionable, lengthy dinners wherein much wine is consumed. (Over Christmas dinner, Bordelli and his pals decide that French cooking rules the world. Yes. French.) Very highly recommended. I can't wait for the next title, "Death in Florence," set in 1966 and focusing on the flood that roared through the city, overwhelming its medieval palazzos and churches, damaging so much precious artwork and taking lives. One quibble. The books are translated from the Italian, and while that must be a daunting task, I wish the translator would NOT refer to the men who populate these books as "blokes." These and other decidedly English terms pepper the book throughout and are distracting. (less)
Very entertaining story set in Memphis, TN in the 1930s. Well-written, thoughtful, and engaging with the flavor of the day nicely woven into this look...moreVery entertaining story set in Memphis, TN in the 1930s. Well-written, thoughtful, and engaging with the flavor of the day nicely woven into this look at a young woman who is blessed with the gift of card-reading--whether she wants it or not. Also, a blossoming romance.(less)
Five Stars for not only an excellent and complex story, but for the fine writing, as well. This time out the year is 1541 and lawyer Matthew Shardlake...moreFive Stars for not only an excellent and complex story, but for the fine writing, as well. This time out the year is 1541 and lawyer Matthew Shardlake is involved in Henry VIII's Progress from London to York in the north of England. Sansom's characterization of Henry and his latest (his fifth) queen, Catherine Howard, is heartbreaking. The girl didn't have a chance! As always, though he is dead now, Cromwell's shadow hovers over the proceedings. My curiosity was pricked by Sansom's plot element revolving around whether Henry might not ever have had the right to rule. This arises from the rumor circulated in England at the time and oft repeated that Cecily Neville, mother of the Yorkist kings Edward IV and Richard III, claimed Edward IV was NOT fathered by the Duke of York, but rather by an English archer named Blaybourne. In his Historical Note to the novel, Sansom discusses the nonfiction work, Boswell 1485 (by Michael K. Jones), which relates the story. Now, I must read that. (less)
Nice to be back with Matthew Shardlake in London, along with Thomas Cromwell....these books are well-written, with lots of texture, which I appreciate...moreNice to be back with Matthew Shardlake in London, along with Thomas Cromwell....these books are well-written, with lots of texture, which I appreciate.(less)
While I enjoyed this mystery set in Florence in summer 1963, what appeared to be an entirely inappropriate sex scene bothered me. Since it involves th...moreWhile I enjoyed this mystery set in Florence in summer 1963, what appeared to be an entirely inappropriate sex scene bothered me. Since it involves the anti-hero protagonist, Inspector Bordelli, I hope in later books we will be illuminated as to how this event affected the development of his character. (less)
Set in France in the summer of 1944, Chasing Mona Lisa follows Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric H...moreCHASING MONA LISA Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey
Set in France in the summer of 1944, Chasing Mona Lisa follows Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler in their mission to save the Mona Lisa from the clutches of Reichmarschall Hermann Göring, who will stop at nothing to steal Leonardo da Vinci's 15th-century masterpiece and use it as a bargaining chip to assure his freedom at war's end. This engaging historical thriller offers multiple viewpoints in an illuminating look at the city of Paris during these difficult wartime years, the strife within the resistance, and the inner workings of the Louvre as museum employees struggle to evacuate and hide the museum's precious treasures.
I very much enjoyed this well-written and fast-paced novel, having just read Carson Morton's Saving Mona Lisa, set in Paris in 191l, with the notorious theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre at its heart (HNR, August 2011). Taken together, these two titles offer readers an intriguing overview of the bumpy and colorful road the world's most famous painting traveled during the first half of the 20th century. (Review in Historical Novels Review, Issue 60, May 2012) Chasing Mona Lisa(less)