My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As a native Italian I can be very picky when it comes to novels set in Italy, and I was really looking forward to this, my first read in the Nic Costa series.
The story starts with the untimely death of Malise Gabriel, a British academic living in Rome, an event which initially seems an accident but soon it emerges it might be all but. The dysfunctional family of the deceased are hiding something from the police and investigator Nic Costa, who is captivated by the mystery and naivety Malise’s teenage daughter Mina, feels he has to get to the bottom of the story even though is he meant to be on holiday.
The family’s behaviour and relationships soon seem to mirror the story of Beatrice Cenci, an Italian noblewoman who, together with her family and especially her brother Giacomo, organised a plot to kill her abusive father and was executed in 1599 despite the great protest of the people of Rome.
I really liked a number of aspects of this book, which is clearly very well researched not only from the historical details about Beatrice Cenci. The police characters and their description are realistic and not patronising: the book portrays people who have to work within the constraints of a rigid and often corrupt bureaucracy. Nic likes Rome, Italy, good food and good wine which are an important part of his life – but not to the point of making him become a caricature. The description of places and people shows clearly that David Hewson has spent a considerable amount of time in Italy – his description of Rome made me want to go back, and he really had me wondering how on earth he knows so much about how to rebuild an old Vespa!
This has been deemed the best so far of the Nic Costa series but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed when reading the previous ones – which I can’t wait to do.