Daniella at Europa Editions has been kind enough to send me a few books by Maurizio de Giovanni to review which I’m finally getting around to. I’ve had my eye on the series for a while as the premise is fascinating. Commissario Ricciardi is a 1930s Naples detective with an unerring ability to see the last few moments before a victim’s death. Naturally his ‘gift’ isn’t sufficient to reveal the murderer but it does allow Riccardi to gain an insight into the victim’s state of mind before their death.
Viper is the sixth book in the series. In a high class brothel, a renowned prostitute is discovered, suffocated with a pillow. Some of her clients are well known Neapolitan residents and Ricciardo has to cut through the reticence of the brothel’s habitués as well as fellow sex workers to unearth the culprit.
As a murder story, the plot is straightforward and single stranded although it is well thought out. Suspects are tracked down and interviewed and the past of the dead girl, known as Viper, is disected. The straightforward plot allows de Giovanni to explore the characters of Ricciardo and his family and colleagues. Ricciardo is the subject of amorous attention from two women, the glamorous Livia who has relocated from Rome to Naples to be near him and Enrica who is learning Neapolitan cooking from Ricciardo’s grandmother, Rosa, as a means to gain Ricciardo’s attention. Unlike most literary love triangles this one has real bite and is clearly set to continue.
I found the description of thirties Naples as fascinating as the mystery. The killing takes place a week before Easter and we’re treated to descriptions of Italian Holy Week customs and food preparations. De Giovanni is a fantastic discovery and I’m looking forward to reading the series from the start as there’s plenty here to enthral the reader.