Source: Review copy
Publication: 3rd March 2022 from Macmillan
My thanks to MacMillan and Philippa McEwan for an advance copy for review
Florence. Spring, 1537.
When Cesare Aldo investigates a report of intruders at a convent in the Renaissance city’s northern quarter, he enters a community divided by bitter rivalries and harbouring dark secrets.
His case becomes far more complicated when a man’s body is found deep inside the convent, stabbed more than two dozen times. Unthinkable as it seems, all the evidence suggests one of the nuns must be the killer.
Meanwhile, Constable Carlo Strocchi finds human remains pulled from the Arno that belong to an officer of the law missing since winter. The dead man had many enemies, but who would dare kill an official of the city’s most feared criminal court?
As Aldo and Strocchi close in on the truth, identifying the killers will prove more treacherous than either of them could ever have imagined . . .
I’ve been meaning to try this series for a while, so it was a delight to receive a copy of the second book in the Cesare Aldo series. Cesare Aldo is an officer of the Ottodi di Guardia e Balia in Florence, a city where everything is political and intrigue is around every corner. Set during the time of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Duke of Florence, The Darkest Sin deals with a murder that in a convent which is itself at the centre of a heated debate over whether it should be closed to outsiders.
D.V. Bishop’s well researched historical crime novel beautifully blends character with intrigue and political manoeuvring to produce a fascinating murder mystery at the heart of Florence’s internal power struggles.
While Cesare is sent by is sent by Ruggerio, a powerful Florentine business man with irons in many of Florence’s fires, to look into reports of intruders trying to gain entry into the convent, his partner in the Guardia, Carlo Strocchi, a sharp young man with a new wife, is following the trail of the murder of a much disliked fellow officer, Cerci, which he has uncovered.
Strocchi’s career stands to benefit significantly if he can solve this case and his moral compass makes him determined that he will get to the bottom of who murdered Cerci and why.
Paying a visit to the Convent, Aldo is taken aback to recognise one of those in attendance. Isabella Gaudi is studying with the nuns and she bears a remarkable resemblance to Cesare’s half-sister, Teresa. Isabella, it transpires, is Teresa’s daughter and Cesare is dismayed to discover that Lucrezia, the woman who turned him out of his home after his father died, is still working her malign influence over the family.
While investigating the potential intruder, Aldo is present when a naked dead man is found in the heart of the convent, drenched in blood and covered in stab wounds. This is of course, terrible, but it only adds fuel to the fire of those who wish to see the convent closed to all outsiders; because who but a nun could have been responsible for this terrible blood thirsty crime?
D.V. Bishop beautifully conveys the atmosphere of hostility and distrust among Florence’s power brokers and the nuns who are at the centre of a battle which seems determined not to allow them to make any decisions for themselves.
Both Aldo and Strocchi have to tread with real care to ensure that they do not upset their political masters who are more concerned with maintaining power than finding murderers. There are powerful insights too into the lives of both men which makes them rounded, fascinating and quite different characters and whose paths seem destined to clash before too long.
The Darkest Sin is steeped in rich atmosphere of this wonderfully created sixteenth-century Florence where the smells and sounds resonate in Bishop’s highly authentic descriptions. Offering up details about Aldo and Strocchi’s lives gives us insight into their characters and motivations and makes them both come alive in our minds.
Together with a dark and deviously twisted storyline in which there are multiple motives for Aldo to work through and layers upon layers of intrigue to uncover, Bishop reveals not only danger on all fronts, but also a conspiracy that threatens to shake Florence to its core.
Verdict: I absolutely loved this dark and intriguing crime novel. I shall now go back and read the first in the series because I can tell that it is destined to become another in the ‘must read’ category. Certainly I can’t wait for the next one. D.V. Bishop has so very neatly left me wanting more!
D. V. Bishop is the pseudonym of award-winning screenwriter and TV dramatist David Bishop. His love for the city of Florence and the Renaissance period meant there could be only one setting for his crime fiction. The first book in the Cesare Aldo series, City of Vengeance, won the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival, and was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. Bishop was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship while writing that novel. He is programme leader for creative writing at Edinburgh Napier University.
Photo: c. Paul Reich