When I pick up a crime novel published by Soho Press, I can usually expect a satisfying police or detective procedural set in some exotic location. There's Leighton Gage's Brazil, Jassy Mackenzie's South Africa, Garry Disher's Australia, Cara Black's Paris. Now, add Jan Merete Weiss' Naples, Italy to the mix. These Dark Things, her debut mystery, isn't quite as polished as the other books mentioned, but I'm willing to give her time. She delves into the politics and history of Naples in a fascinating story.
It's one of the last of the bone cleaners who discovers the body of a young woman in the crypt of a church. She did holy work, disinterring bones a year after burial, cleaning them, and preparing them for a second burial. But, her discovery of the corpse of a German student at a cultural shrine brought Captain Natalia Monte of the Carabinieri, the national police, into the case. The Carabinieri were responsible for protection of cultural institutions, so this was their investigation.
And, it's a messy investigation, in more ways than one. Natalia and her partner, Sergeant Pino Loriano, have to work their way around the garbage in the streets. The Camorra, Naples' local criminal organization, is responsible for garbage pick-up, and they're feuding with the Italian government over landfills and incinerators, so they've stopped picking up the garbage. The politicians, the press, and the people of Naples are outraged at the incompetence and corruption. That doesn't mean anyone will back Natalia up if she discovers the Camorra and their local head, Gambini, are involved in this murder.
Weiss skillfully combines Naples' history with a contemporary criminal investigation. And, Natalia Monte is an intriguing woman, a woman whose personal history is intertwined with this story. Her childhood friendships, her failure in college, and her connections are all essential elements in this case. However, the solutions to a couple situations were a little too pat, and wrapped up too abruptly. Weiss' style is sure to be more polished as this series continues.
Saying that, I'd recommend Jan Merete Weiss' debut, These Dark Things, to anyone who enjoys a solid procedural along with a cultural experience. She's going to be a solid addition to the Soho Press group of authors.
These Dark Things by Jan Merete Weiss. Soho Press. ©2011. ISBN 9781569479384 (hardcover), 224p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.