Daniela 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.
Publisher Europa Editions has recently launched a new series featuring the best of international crime fiction. As a taster, World Noir, is a collection of essays, interviews and short stories on the genre. The book is dedicated to the memory of Marseilles writer Jean-Claude Izzo and has, as you would expect a strong Mediterranean feel. But we are also promised taste of noir from around the world in the forthcoming series that includes writers from Australia, the US and Ireland.
World Noir is broadly split into two parts. The first is a set of essays, interviews and tributes. I haven’t read any of Jean-Claude Izzo’s works but I have one sitting on my shelf. And the best compliment that I can give this book is that I’m now dying to try the author. Essays from fellow crime writers such as Massimo Carlotto and Andrea Camilleri give a sense as to how influential Izzo has been on a generation of authors. Writers and readers seem to have fallen in love with the central protagonist of Izzo’s books, Fabio Montale. The essays do widen in scope of to include an assessment of Irish crime fiction by Gene Kerrigan and the influence of Michael Didbin.
The rest of the book is a taster of fiction from writers around the world including Benjamin Tamuz from Israel and our own Stav Sherez from Britain. A Dark Redemption was the only book that I had read (I’m a fan) but a taster from the other authors has thrown up some future reading from me. I particularly liked the passage from the quaintly name Summertime, All the Cats are Bored by French writer Philippe Georget.
I’d recommend this new series to anyone who is hoping to expand their knowledge of noir. This reader was very well produced – for a paperback it has lovely thick pages and this is a foretaste of things to come from the series. The books that I’ve seen have been produced to a similarly high quality.
The digital edition of the free World Noir reader can be downloaded by following these links: epub (Nook), mobi (Kindle)or PDF
Many thanks to Europa Editions for sending me a copy of the reader.