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.
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
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