First Sentence: So tell me: do you know what love is?
Viper, the most famous prostitute in Naples, is found dead in her room at the Paradiso, a high-class brothel. Commissario Ricciardi, with Brigadier Mairone and the outspoken Dr. Bruno Modo, is charged with finding the killer in this crime of so many emotions, during a time when Mussolini and the Brown Shirts are in power.
One definitely can’t complain about having to wait for the murder to happen. From the very start, we know who dies and how, but not the why or by whom.
de Giovanni’s style is interesting in that he sets in books in successive seasons and relates the season to the actions of humanity—“Ricciardi didn’t trust the spring. There was nothing worse than the mild breeze. After a winter of silence of icy streets swept by winds out of the north…people’s brooding passions have built up so much of that destructive energy that they can hardly wait to erupt, to sow chaos.” He also enables us to feel Ricciardi’s pain of having to live with the curse/ability he has been given—“Maybe I’m just imaging it all…Maybe it’s just an illusion produced by my sick mind. … Maybe it’s just a way to escape reality, maybe there’s really nothing in front of me.”
It is the wonderful characters who captivate readers and draws them into the story, and into the series as a whole. It’s not Riccardi’s ability that draws us, but the impact it has on his life and relationships. It is the loyalty of Brigadier Mairone, and his wife and family, and his relationship with a man/lady of the streets. It is Dr. Modo, who usually brings a bit of lightness with his teasing of Riccardi, yet adds an element of suspense here, as well as a note on the value of friendship and loyalty. It is Riccardi’s housekeeper, the woman who has been with him his whole life, and the two very different women who love him.
In a very real sense, Riccardi’s sightings of the dead serve to remind one that death is an ever-present part of life, and often a cruel price that must be paid. Yet even with death, there is the celebration of Fat Tuesday and Easter, and food. It is Italy, after all. The panoply of dishes described leaves one salivating—“…his majesty the lasagna…the ragù and meatballs, sausages and rapni, the fegatini nella rezza, …and most important of all, the sanguinaccio.
We are also reminded, in a very real, way of the time in which the story is set; the power of fascism, the building of fear, and the consequences of defying them. There is an element of prophesy—“They call it “undermining the image of the head of state,” and they behave as if it’s a serious crime because they claim that it harms the image of Italy as a whole.”
“Viper” is so much more than a police procedural, although it is that at its heart. Understanding the victim’s last words brings a smile to one’s lips, and a tear to one’s heart. What an excellent series.
VIPER: No Resurrection for Commissario Ricciardi (Pol Proc-Ricciardi-Naples-1932) – Ex
de Giovanni, Maurizio – 6th in series
Europa Editions – March, 2015