Carnival for the Dead – David Hewson

Title – Carnival for the Dead

Author – David Hewson

Published – January 2012

Genre – Crime fiction

I don’t think it’s a secret that I am a huge fan of David Hewson’s writing, and I have been eagerly awaiting the latest installment in the “Costa” series. For me the joy of reading one of these books is the combination of excellent prose,  a complex puzzle and often a hint of something more mysterious. It’s a relief to say that Carnival for the Dead doesn’t disappoint.

Carnival for the Dead is a variation on a theme, featuring forensic pathologist Teresa Lupo as the central character rather than the more familiar Nic Costa. The book sees a return to Venice (the setting for the earlier title in the series “The Lizard’s Bite”) as Lupo travels there with her mother following the mysterious disappearance of her  favourite Aunt, Sofia.  When Sofia’s apartment yields no apparent clues as to her whereabouts Lupo becomes concerned that something sinister has happened. She decides to stay in the apartment while she undertakes to search for her, quickly sending her mother home.

Her search is aided by a serious of cryptic stories which are mysteriously delivered to Sofia’s home. Although they have a “supernatural” feel to them they also bear an increasingly uncanny resemblance to her ongoing search for Sofia. But who is sending them? Is it Sofia, or someone who wants to help, and why can’t they just come forward and speak directly to Lupo?

With the rest of the usual team unavailable to help her, Lupo accepts the help of Alberto Tosi the (now retired) city pathologist, believing that he will have some influence with the local police. Unfortunately Carnival means the police are too busy to help with Lupo’s “mystery”, so she and Tosi attempt to carry on the investigation without them, even when there is a murder which Lupo believes is somehow connected to Sofia’s disappearance.

Venice is as much a character in this tale as Lupo herself. Set in February (the time of the Carnival) this isn’t the city most tourists will see – it’s cold, in fact there’s snow and ice, it’s dark and the masks and costumes of those taking part in the Carnival itself add to the sinister atmosphere.

I know that there is a suggestion that this may be the last in the “Costa” series, but I sincerely hope that isn’t the case. There are plenty of authors who have pursued a series for far too long, but Hewson has shown that applying a different perspective on the stories is an excellent way to ensure the reader’s continued interest.

A story with well-observed characters, a gripping mystery and all in the atmospheric setting of Venice – what more could you ask for!

Score – 4/5 (or 4.5 if I allowed half marks!)

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