These Dark Things by Jan Merete Weiss
Series: #1 in the Captain Natalia Monte series
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: 2011
The Short Version:
Captain Natalia Monte investigates a murder in Naples that revolves around a gangster, a blind monk, a college professor she’s clashed with, a few friends from her past and some ancient superstitions thrown in for good measure.
Why I Read It:
When I read about it in a Shelving Books post at S.Krishna’s Books it sounded like something I would like and since my library has a copy I was able to do an impulse request.
Captain Natalia Monte is one of the few female members of the Carabinieri (Italy’s national police). She serves in her home town of Naples. When a college student is found murdered and her body staged in an underground crypt, the case is assigned to the Carabinieri because the body was found in a National Monument. The investigation soon becomes complex. Was the blind monk in love with the girl? Did her professor harbor jealousies of her academic achievements? Are the local gangsters involved? Could one of Natalia’s childhood friends be wrapped up in this?
Local political corruption and a crime syndicate that is refusing to collect the garbage adds to the stink of the mess Natalia and her partner are investigating. And her partner’s infatuation with her is just one more complication.
For a relatively short book there was a lot going on, but the author manages to pull it off without it becoming complete chaos. I enjoyed the setting and really could feel and see the city of Naples as I read the book. Natalia’s own history in the city and with many of the characters added a lot to her involvement in the investigation. Experiencing Naples through her eyes and her memories of her childhood made the story more real.
I liked Natalia and despite her flaws I’m glad that this is the first in a planned series featuring her. Her partner Pino is also a great character and whether or not the relationship between them develops I would hope that he remains a featured character in any future books.
For all the twists and turns and complexities in the story it’s interesting and well done. Naples itself and its history both ancient and recent are very much a part of the story. The crime organization known as The Camorra and its influence on the daily life in the city adds to the atmosphere. There are so many suspects for so many reasons that the final outcome came as a bit of a surprise to me.
This is a darkly atmospheric police procedural set in a fascinating place and populated with intriguing characters. Take the opportunity to read this series from the beginning so that I’m not he only one eagerly anticipating the next book.