Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni

Maurizio de Giovanni's I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi, introduces a fascinating detective. And, Anne Milano Appel's translation captures the spirit of the man, while her closing afterword summarizes historical and opera facts to make the book more accessible to readers. Together, they bring a haunted figure to life. While the book is a murder mystery, it is also a profile of Ricciardi.

In 1931 in Naples, Italy, the police were a military force under a Fascist regime since 1922. And, Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi was a Commissario of Police, a thirty-one-year-old who has been haunted by the dead since he was six. Ricciardi sees the dead, the ones who died violently. And, he senses the sudden energy of their final thoughts. Because he feels their emotion, he's a somber man, with "a scar on his soul". He's a wealthy man, but he's compelled to find answers for the dead, so he works. He's feared by other police, except for one man who's attached to him, Brigadier Raffaele Maione. With all of his usual determination, Ricciardi found the killer of Maione's son, also a policeman.

This background is essential to understanding Ricciardi's investigation into the murder of Arnaldo Vezzi, "the world's greatest tenor", who was killed while preparing to go onstage to sing. There were numerous people at the theater who could not have murdered him. And, it was an opera-loving priest who saw the clues Ricciardi needed to find a killer. It's a complicated case with few suspects. But Ricciardi is convinced he'll know the perpetrator when he understands the motive. "Hunger and love are the source of all atrocities, whatever form they might take: pride, power, envy, jealousy."

I Will Have Vengeance is not a fast-paced thriller. Instead, it's a character study of a police detective as he tracks a killer. It's a thoughtful, slow-moving book in which Ricciardi manipulates the solution to achieve his concept of justice. It's a detective story for readers who are fascinated by the mystery of character, and how character, good or bad, moves the story along. While the murder mystery is solved, the mystery of Commissario Ricciardi leaves much to be discovered.

I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni, translation by Anne Milano Appel. Europa Editions. 9781609450946 (paperback), 216p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

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