Review: Maurizio de Giovanni – Viper

aa589d44bcbf750eb532944b45020caa-w2041xDaniela 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.

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8 thoughts on “Review: Maurizio de Giovanni – Viper

      • Will do, Sarah. It’s great to find such a site as yours; a place to vent one’s love of a very crowded, but yet surprisingly good genre. I must check your work out as well. One correction to myself: Dibden should read Dibdin (we lost a treasure when he passed along with Reg Hill, Ruth Rendell and the great PD James). It leaves voids that have be filled in- which leads me back to praising your site.Cheers, from Down Under.

        • Hi Dave – thanks for the lovely words about Crimepeices. I loved all the authors you mentioned. Have you read The Mistletoe Murders? It was a book of short stories by PD James published recently. It was so lovely to find some new Dalgliesh.

          • Hello,Sarah. No I have not read Mistletoe Murders, but will look out for it. The void that I mentioned gives me the opportunity to search out “new” authors: it’s lead me to Ann Cleeves, Peter May, Ake Edwardson, Karin Fossum, Stuart Macbride, David Hewson- to name a few. However,I sadly feel that some of my favourite authors are now weighing quality against quantity (Peter Robinson and Peter James are two who come to mind). This is off topic, I realise, but would be interested in your opinion. Rankin, McDermid and Nesbo never drop their standard, so how does one keep a character fresh? Contracts!!! Time constraints!!! Cheers, Dave.

            • It’s interesting isn’t it? I think a writer is allowed a dip in a long running series. They often come back fresher. Some of Nesbo’s books have been better than others and ditto Lee Child, Sue Grafton and Jonathan Kellerman. I think this is only natural but I do find they often get better after a while.

  1. This does sound interesting, Sarah. The setting and context alone are appealing, and the mystery sounds intriguing too. I don’t usually go for the supernatural element in my reading, but it doesn’t sound really overdone here. Glad you enjoyed it.

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