Having enjoyed David Hewson‘s Pieter Vos series books (House of Dolls, The Wrong Girl, and Little Sister) I decided to take the plunge and have a go at his series about the Italian (Caravaggio loving) detective, Nic Costa.
Although Costa is the star, a large part of this tale features Sara Farnese, a femme fatale character who is minding her own business in a Vatican library, reading a book, when she is approached by a deranged individual with a bloody bag and a loaded gun. From there on, there is murder and mayhem. The murders are the work of a serial killer, who appears to be targeting people associated with Farnese, posing the victims in ways representative of the deaths of Catholic martyrs. Costa and his colleague Rossi are first on the scene, and they quickly start to brush up the Vatican authorities the wrong way, before focusing their investigation, and trying to identify and find the killer.
The setting is well done, without being overdone. There’s a good flavor of the Vatican and its politics, though some of the stances taken seem a little cartoonish. That having been said, the excitement builds up, and the plot twists and action deliver a good crime novel experience.
The Costa character is also well done; his whole background and relationship with his colleagues, his father, and the outside world, are fascinating. Rossi, his partner, and Falcone, his boss, are good foils, and the interaction is lively and stimulating. Farnese is also an interesting character, though I found my suspension of disbelief being stretched a bit too much by some aspects of her behavior. In parts, I felt I wanted to know more (perhaps needed to know more) and the impression was of a rush to move on. The Vatican heavy, Hanrahan, and Cardinal Denney, were less authentic in my judgement. Scenes involving these two were the least impressive.
Overall, this was a solid start, with the promise of more as the series develops. Even if I hadn’t known before, the ending of this book is an obvious setup for a sequel, so if the author hadn’t delivered it, his fans would have been very upset.
I didn’t think this was as good as the Pieter Vos books, but as hinted above, I could see it could develop into something close to that high standard. And, since I know what the author is capable of doing, I’m going along for the ride. You should, too.