Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Day of the Dead: The Autumn of Commissario Ricciardi by Maurzio de Giovanni

First Sentence: As the dawn was beginning to extract the outlines of things from the night and the rain, if someone had happened to pass by the foot of the monumental staircase leading up to Capodimonte, they’d have seen a dog and a child.

When the body of a young boy is found, it is assumed he is another tragic victim or poverty and hunger. Commissario Riccardi believes differently, but even he is confused as his usual “gift” is not providing the usual indication of it being a violent death. With the impending visit of Mussolini, his superiors want there to be no investigations of serious crimes on the books, so Riccardi decides to go on his own and find the answers during this week of the dead celebration.

Commissario Riccardi is one of those rare characters who stays with you long after you finish the book. Not because of his gift/curse, but because one can’t imagine what it would be like living with it. But also because of the supporting characters; Brigadier Maione, his second who doesn’t always understand him but always supports him; Dr. Bruno Modo, the pathologist and the one person who brings humor to the taciturn Riccardi; Rosa, Riccardi’s childhood nanny who has stayed with him and cared for him how into adulthood, and who worries about who will care for him when she is gone; and the two women around him; one who is wealthy is believes she loves him, one who is poor, lives across the alley and does love him, and even Maione’s informant, Bambinella. It is the balance of solving the crime, set off by Riccardi’s personal life and internal struggles, and the politics of the day that makes this series so memorable.

de Giovanni has such a wonderful use of language which portrays the city to us, good and bad …”the Sanità neighborhood, bubbling over with life and grief, cheerful energy and poverty.” We learn of Naples in the 1920s, and of an old tradition related to Jordan almonds after the passing of a child. He also makes us painfully aware on the capacity of humans for cruelty…”Ricciardi shivered. He was increasingly finding the dead less frightening than the living.” Through Maione, de Giovanni also brings insight to the readers, “Children living on the street were somebody’s children; in fact, they were everybody’s children.” The wonderful exchange of letters between Riccardi and Enrica, the woman across the alley, adds such a sweet touch to a sad, dark story.

The author’s perspectives and descriptions are evocative to the point where one finds oneself re-reading passages for the pure pleasure of it. Although the translation is rough at time, particularly related to the dialogue, it also makes you very aware that you are in a different time and place. This story is the most serious of the series so far, and that it’s approach is different from those previous, only demonstrates the awareness of the author.

The Day of the Dead” has a twist that is completely unexpected. The ending is sad, happy and leaves you immediately wanting to read the next book, but do read them in sequence.

THE DAY OF THE DEAD: The Autumn of Commissario Ricciardi (Hist Mys-Comm. Guido Riccardi-Naples-1921)
de Giovanni, Maurizio – Ex
Europa Editions – Mar 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment