The Villa of Mysteries – David Hewson

This is the second in the author’s Detective Nic Costa series (my review of the first is here). Set in Rome, it is a fairly standard police procedural, though it was fresh for a couple of reasons.

First, the feel and the characters were different from the first. Here, Costa is in the story for sure, but the previously peripheral characters are more involved. Second, the narrative doesn’t pull many punches, and although the quality of the writing dips periodically, the overall sensation is of ever rising tension. In the first book, there was a manhunt theme. In this book, there’s more of a central mystery: what is going on, and who is responsible?

The action starts with the discovery of the body of a murdered young girl. This drags up past history involving Emilio Neri, the local mafia boss (who is having problems controlling his son) and Vergil Wallis, an allegedly retired American gangster, and an ancient rite cum orgy that may be about to be repeated.

The characterization is good, the setting is interesting, and the plot is tight, and skillfully revealed.

One thing that stands out now, is the change in the quality of the author’s writing. This book is good, but it has its rough edges. (And yes, I wish I could produce something half as good.) However, the more recent books of Hewson’s that I have read have not had such a lack of finish. In a good way, I am learning some craft as I go, so reading this material is a win-win for me.

On reflection, I enjoyed it. I want to see how the characters and the writing develop, so will be getting hold of more of the Nic Costa books.