Apparently I am reading this series out of sequence. This installment explains a lot about Ricciardi’s early life, his affliction (the curse of seeing the recently dead and hearing their final thoughts), his family, and his complicated non-relationships with his neighbor Enrica and with the highly placed and beautiful Livia.
The theme here is jealousy, and nearly everyone is suffering from it. Maione has misinterpreted the flirtation of a fruit seller with his wife; the wife of a famous journalist seems to be jealous of her husband’s affair with the beautiful young wife of an elderly and ailing duke; Enrica is jealous of Livia; and Ricciardi himself, normally immune to love and its afflictions, is jealous of a man who seems to be Entica’s suitor. And in every case the jealousy is misplaced, or is not as it seems.
As always, Ricciardi is a solitary man, bound by the chains of his curse and, because he keeps apart, feared by his colleagues, and virtually without friends. Yet he sees clearly into the hearts and minds of others, guided by the principle that nearly all crime is driven by love or hunger.
The crime in this novel is the murder of the duke’s young and promiscuous wife. There are two obvious suspects, and a couple of possible others. Alibis are thin on the ground, red herrings are everywhere, and for a time even Ricciardi is thrown off track, because he ignores two crucial pieces of evidence. In all, this book works really well as a murder mystery.
But the attraction of the book is in the character of Ricciardi; the lives of his professional companions, Modo and Maione; the women, Enrica and Livia, who love or at least are inclined to love Ricciardi; the city of Naples; and finally de Giovanni’s lyrical writing.