27 July 2009

Review: LUCIFER'S SHADOW, David Hewson

I'm staggered to find that I have been listening to LUCIFER'S SHADOW for nearly a month. You might remember my post in late June where I talked about the fact that the narrator was using an Italian accent which I was having problems coming to terms with. I am happy to report that things got better and that I enjoyed this book immensely. Not surprising that it has taken so long to listen to - it is nearly 18 hours, and I get less than 45 minutes listening time every day!

Book Details:
Paperback: 384 pages, Publisher: Delta (July 26, 2005), ISBN-10: 0385338058, ISBN-13: 978-0385338059

When she died 10 years ago, promising violinist Susanna Gianni was buried on Venice's San Michele with her violin. After 10 years bodies on San Michele are disinterred and disposed of. Small time crook Rizzo has been employed by the Englishman Hugo Massiter to claim the corpse.. Well, he doesn't want the corpse really, just the Guarneri violin. And that's the hook that gets the reader/listener in straight away. Who is this Massiter? How did Susanna Gianni die? Why does he want the violin?

At the same time young English academic Daniel Forster arrives in Venice to do some work for Scacchi, an ailing art collector, the last of the house of Scacchi, a printing house in Venice with a long history.

Jump back now to the Venice of 1733. Vivaldi is conducting a concert in La Pieta. Canaletto is painting the life of Venice. Lorenzo Scacchi, nephew of the printer, has fallen in love with a beautiful violinist, Rebecca Levi, a Jewess whom he smuggles out of the ghetto so she can play in Vivaldi's annual concert.

I strongly believe that the reader needs to go on their own journey of discovery, to experience the book for himself, to be surprised where the author reveals something new.
So I'm not going to recount more of the story, except to tell you that there is a clever interweaving of parallel threads from the two time periods, even parallel characters. An annual concert, a piece of music, a beautiful young violinist, an evil Englishman, a law enforcement officer who is prevented from revealing the truth, are just some of the mirror images to look out for.

This was a book that grew on me, to the point that, as I could feel the end was coming, I felt quite regretful. The narrator Christopher Kay, after I had got attuned to the Italian accent, did an excellent job, and his voice gave me plenty of clues about which character was speaking.

My rating: 4.8

You might be interested in the following:
The sixth Nic Costa novel, THE GARDEN OF EVIL, was voted the best mystery of 2008 by the American Library Association and was recently shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

My other mini-reviews of Hewson novels

THE SACRED CUT, my rating 4.8
For the first time in two decades, Rome is paralysed by a blizzard. And a gruesome discovery is made in the Pantheon, one of the city's most ancient and revered architectural treasures. Covered by soft snow is the body of an American tourist - her back horribly mutilated.

A SEASON FOR THE DEAD, my rating 4.2
This is the first of the Nic Costa series. As with succeeding novels in the series, the book opens with a dramatic event. Sara Farnese looks up from a manuscript in the Reading Room of the Vatican Library to see a fellow professor approaching her with a bulging plastic bag. He appears to be distressed and is carrying a gun in his other hand. From the bag he tips the skin of her lover, and points the gun at Sara's head. Standing in the colonnades of St. Peter's Square, Rome cops Luca Rossi and his new partner Nic Costa hear of the shooting in the Reading Room on the police scanner. Strictly speaking the Vatican is not in their jurisdiction, but as Nic says, they are just around the corner…

THE LIZARD'S BITE, my rating 4.6
This is the 4th in the Nic Costa series. Detectives from Rome, Nic Costa, Gianni Peroni, and Leo Falcone, have been 'exiled' to Venice, famous for its glassblowing. A terrible fire occurs at the factory of a relatively recently arrived family of Murano glassblowers, the Arcangeli, when their furnace overheats and the furnace manager Uriel Arcangeli spontaneously combusts. Nic and Gianni had been coming to the end of their time in Venice and their return to Rome is postponed so they can prove beyond all doubt that Uriel's death is an accident. For me, Hewson has captured the atmosphere of Venice very well. The story hints at some of the issues currently worrying Venetians, and at the same time the characters of Costa, Peroni and Falcone are expanded so that we get to know them better.


David Hewson said...

Glad you enjoyed it. Authors have no control over who reads their work. The Costa books are now read by the wonderful Saul Reichlin who does not use an Italian accent at all, which I prefer frankly. Anything that gets in the way is best removed in my opinion.
As I said in the post on MJ Rose's blog this book got a very lukewarm launch in the UK and has been out of print here for years. However I'm happy to say it will be republished this October by my present publisher in a somewhat revised and tidied-up edition with a new title, The Cemetery of Secrets.

Kerrie said...

Thanks for dropping by David. Interesting to know about the re-publication

Heartbeatoz said...

Thanks Kerrie you have given me the nudge to try and read this book again for some reason I couldn't get into it it but your review has sparked my interest to give it a 2nd go.

David Hewson said...

Heartbeatoz. You may want to wait for the revised edition being published as The Cemetery of Secrets. The current in-print edition is from the US and bizarrely sets the historical passages in italic type, which I find very hard to read myself. The new UK edition doesn't do this.
The new edition is out in the UK in early October, a month later or so in Australia.


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