Thursday, August 2, 2018

Glass Souls by Maurizio de Giovanni

First Sentence:  The young man narrows his eyes in order to accustom them to the room's dim light.
Still trying to cope with the death of Rosa, his childhood nurse then housekeeper, Commissario Riccardi agrees to unofficially look into a case that has been closed.  The husband of Bianca Palmieri, countess of Roccaspina, confessed to a murder she is certain he couldn't have done.  In spite of the risk to his own career, Riccardi, with the help of his second, Brigadier Raffaele Maione, agrees to look into the case.
Some series are such that one can start anywhere.  This is not such as that.  De Giovanni's series, although each book deals with separate crimes, is a part of the whole.  Although meant to describe just this entry, La Reppublica describes the series best "It's like a very sophisticated mosaic in which each protagonist occupies precisely the right amount of space. The powerful rhythm with which the plot develops will surprise readers at every turn."
The opening in "Glass Souls" is quite different from previous books yet de Giovanni creates such an evocative scene which perfectly conveys melancholy and sorrow, as well as deep loss.  In complete contrast, we then move to elation.
It takes a bit to become used to there being multiple threads, yet each is distinct and holds its own weight.  What is remarkable is that one never feels a preference for one over another.  The thru thread is the investigation into the murder and trying to prove the innocence of Bianca's husband, in spite of his insistence that he is guilty.  Those threads which deal with Riccardi's personal life tug at our heart.  While one may prefer one woman, Enrica or Livia, over another, we feel sympathy for, and can identify with, the pain each of the three characters is experiencing…actually four characters, including Enrica Colombo's father. 
The inclusion of Enrica's German suitor, Manfred, reminds one of the time in which this is set and the impending danger to all the characters.
De Giovanni's descriptions are wonderfully evocative.  Yes, the language is flowery, but it is also beautiful—"Now it is September, and the perfumes win out over tomorrow and any terror.  It is September, and it seems that the tenderness of this city on the sea, this city of the sky and the leafy branches that toss in the fragile air, will never end.  It seems that the souls can remain glass, and display everything within them, and have no need of fear.  So it seems.  … Because you'll dream nothing of what you expect, while your hands reach out in your sleep to grab a blanket that can protect you from the sudden chill that will enter the room, treacherously, through the window you left open just a crack, exposing your soul.  Your soul of glass." 

The one thing which is awkward at times, is the dialogue, especially in cases of anger or anxiety.  However, one must assume it is attributable to the translation rather than the original writing as otherwise, the dialogue works very well.
For those new to the series, the explanation of the Deed, the curse or ability with which Riccardi must live, comes rather later in the story.  When one considers it, it is understandable that he feels about relationships as he does and it's heartbreaking.  We also learn a bit more of Riccardi's personal family history.
Two characters who bring a bit of light to the story are Riccardi's very loyal second, Maione, and the pathologist, Dr. Bruno Modo who asks about—"Your theory, Riccardi.  The one you explained to me a long time ago.  People kill for hunger or love.  By hunger, of course, we mean material need, and by love, all emotions.  Whose child is this murder?  Hunger's or love's?".  Maione's driving provides a true moment of humor—"When the self-taught driver triumphally screeched to a halt with a terrible shriek of metal against metal in the convent's courtyard, the commissario catapulted himself out of the car, resisting the temptation to kiss the ground like a sixteenth-century navigator."
"Glass Souls" has a resolution which makes perfect sense, yet not one which is obvious.  Even so, we are sent into great danger, rescued by kindness, and given great hope.  This book is yet another very good entry in a series which should be read from the beginning, and in which one may be completely captivated.
GLASS SOULS (Hist/Pol Proc-Comm. Riccardi-Italy-1930s) - VG
      de Giovanni, Maurizio – 8th in series
      World Noir – July 2017

1 comment:

  1. This series certainly seems intriguing! I know just what you mean, too, about series that should be read in order. I'm a fan of several series like that. I'm going to have to check these novels out.