Author– David Hewson
Published – Feb 2011
Genre – Crime
I have only discovered David Hewson fairly recently, and when offered the opportunity to read a proof copy of the soon to be published “The Fallen Angel” I wasn’t going to say no.
When the sins of the past echo the crimes of the present – Detective Nic Costa faces his hardest case yet. When British academic Malise Gabriel falls to his death from a Rome apartment, detective Nic Costa rapidly comes to realize that there is much more to the accident than he had first thought. It also becomes apparent that Malise’s family – mysterious and tragic daughter Mina, stoic wife Cecilia and troubled son Robert – may be keeping vital information hidden. Nic becomes obsessed with the case, and is especially intrigued by Mina’s story which seems to be linked with the sixteenth century-legend of a young Italian noblewoman, Beatrice Cenci. As the investigation deepens, Rome’s dark and seedy side is uncovered, revealing a web of deceit, treachery and corruption. Costa realizes that the key to the truth lies with the Gabriels. Why are they so unwilling to co-operate, and who, or what, is the reason for their silence?
This is the latest in the Nic Costa series of Hewson’s contemporary roman crime thrillers. If you haven’t come across this series, Costa is an unusual character to take the lead in a detective novel – a young(ish) Italian detective with a sensitive side and an appreciation of his roman heritage.
The book gets down to business pretty quickly, with the death of a British academic who has been living in Rome with his family. Investigation of the mysterious death stalls when his family seems to be reluctant to contribute to the investigation, however Costa develops a friendship with the dead man’s daughter which provides him with an insight into their relationships.
A feature of Hewson’s books is the blending of modern Rome with historical aspects – in this case the story of the Cenci family in the 16th century with murder, intrigue and ultimately papal justice. There seems to be an echo of this old legend within the modern-day mystery, and the preoccupation of the characters with the past is an important feature of the story. The author obviously knows the city well & has done his research as he brings the story to life on the hot and dusty streets of Rome, but without letting the setting get in the way of the narrative.
The development of the investigation depends upon relationships – both unravelling the relationships within this family and the relationships of the team of detectives, but at the end of the day this is a complex but cracking, well–paced detective story.
Don’t be put off if you haven’t read previous books in the series (although you should!) – there’s enough background along the way to fill in any gaps.
Score – 4/5