5 December 2015

Review: THE ANCIENT CURSE, Valerio Massimo Manfredi

  • first published 2001
  • translated from Italian by Christine Fedderson-Manfredi 2010
  • 247 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-230-74422-6
Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australai)

In the middle of the night at the Museum of Volterra, young archeologist Fabrizio Castellani is immersed in his work – research into the famous Etruscan statue known as "The Night Shadow". Completely engrossed, he is startled by the phone ringing. An icy female voice warns him to abandon his work at once.

A series of gruesome killings shortly follow, throwing the people of Volterra into a panic. The victims – all involved in the desecration of an unexplored tomb – have been torn to pieces by a beast of unimaginable size. Fabrizio is in charge of excavating this Etruscan tomb.

Fabrizio is joined in his fearless investigation of the past by Francesca Dionisi, a vivacious young researcher, and foremost by Lieutenant Reggiani, a brilliant carabinieri officer assigned to the case. Fabrizio is convinced that a single event has set off the entire chain of events.

What is hiding inside the enigmatic statue? What lies behind the bloodthirsty rage that has lain in wait for all these centuries? What tragedy is hidden behind the inscription? Will Fabrizio manage to unravel these secrets without being sucked into the spiral of violence himself?

My Take

Through archaeology the setting of this novel takes the reader back twenty four centuries to a dreadful massacre. Seemingly triggered by an investigation being carried out by Fabrizio Castellani a long dead monster comes to life and begins ravaging the countryside, attacking people out late at night. But which of his investigations has triggered this? The bronze statue of the young boy, the Phersu tomb he has excavated, or the tablet inscriptions his boss is translating in secret?

Fabrizio is a loose cannon who likes to do his own thing, so while he cooperates with the local police chief, he also keeps secret some of what he is doing.

There are Gothic overtones to this novel and a reliance on the supernatural. The story got me so enthralled that I had to get up in the middle of the night to finish off the last thirty pages because my mind would not give it a rest. Looking back on the novel I think the author changed his mind several times about where the story was going and I detected a number of threads that looked interesting at the time, but actually went nowhere.

Nevertheless it was quite a good read and I could see it making a good basis for a scary thriller movie.

My rating: 4.2

About the author

Valerio Massimo Manfredi is professor of classical archaeology at Luigi Bocconi University in Milan. Further to numerous academic publications, he has published thirteen works of fiction, including the Alexander trilogy which has been translated into thirty-four languages in fifty-five countries. His novel The Last Legion was released as a major motion picture. He has written and hosted documentaries on the ancient world and has penned screenplays for cinema and television. 

1 comment:

Terra said...

Sounds of interest to me, Italy, mystery, archaeology. It does sound movie worthy.


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