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Judith and the Holy Ferns [Kindle Edition]

David Hewson
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A servant to men for all her life, Mary Mackenzie is brought to Rome by her latest employer, the elderly Mr Carstairs, for reasons she knows only too well.

In the Babington Tea Rooms she's introduced to the history of a painting that gives her pause for thought, however. Judith and Holofernes. The Holy Ferns, as she hears them.

The story of one woman's bloody battle against a tyrannical man. Is there a lesson there the weak and submissive Mary can learn?
In this dark and blackly humorous short story David Hewson explores another side to the Rome he's chronicled in his bestselling Nic Costa series.

There are no Roman cops in this short story. But there is a side to Rome that Hewson fans will recognise... and a worm that is about to turn.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 130 KB
  • Publisher: David Hewson (2 Mar. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004QGYAFU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #144,056 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

David Hewson's novels have been translated into a wide range of languages, from Italian to Japanese, and his debut work, Semana Santa, set in Holy Week Spain, was filmed with Mira Sorvino. Dante's Numbers is his thirteenth published novel.

David was born in Yorkshire in 1953 and left school at the age of seventeen to work as a cub reporter on one of the smallest evening newspapers in the country in Scarborough. Eight years later he was a staff reporter on The Times in London, covering news, business and latterly working as arts correspondent. He worked on the launch of the Independent and was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Times for a decade before giving up journalism entirely in 2005 to focus on writing fiction.

Semana Santa won the WH Smith Fresh Talent award for one of the best debut novels of the year in 1996 and was later made into a movie starring Mira Sorvino and Olivier Martinez. Four standalone works followed before A Season for the Dead, the first in a series set in Italy. There are now nine Costa titles published in numerous languages around the world including Chinese and Japanese... and Italian.

David followed these books with three acclaimed adaptations of the award-winning Copenhagen TV crime series The Killing. In 2014 he debuted a new series set in Amsterdam with The House of Dolls. With A.J. Hartley he has also authored two popular adaptations of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Hamlet, originally for audio now out in ebook.

He has featured regularly on the speaker lists of leading international book events, including the Melbourne and Ottawa writers' festivals, the Harrogate Crime Festival, Thrillerfest, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. He has taught at writing schools around the world and is a regular faculty member for the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Corte Madera, California, where he has worked alongside writers such as Martin Cruz Smith and Michael Connelly.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new twist to being "Up before the Beak". 7 Mar. 2011
By R Judd
Format:Kindle Edition
The innocuous title belies the sordid little tale that follows. It is sharp, incisive, perfectly paced - and utterly compelling. Mr Hewson is a master storyteller who sketches out an intriguing outline, then steps back confidently and leaves your own imagination to find the colours. At 94p this is my best-buy on Amazon this year, though I confess I'll never feel quite the same way about dormice and parrots again...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely title - not so sure about the story 15 Feb. 2012
By Damaskcat HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this short story on its title alone and I almost wish I hadn't. Mary and her employer, Mr Carstairs are staying in Rome. They are taking tea after viewing paintings of Judith beheading the tyrannical Holofernes. Unfortunately Mary has misheard the tiles and thinks it is Judith and the Holy Ferns partly because one of the paintings contains a lot of ferns.

It is soon clear that the relationship between Mary and her employer is not all it might be and the scenario back at her employer's hotel - because he is feeling `frisky' - leaves rather too little to the imagination of the reader.

The title is marvellous and the plot is intriguing and the conclusion satisfying but the middle chapter is just squalid and uncomfortable to read.
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1.0 out of 5 stars RUBBISH 8 Nov. 2012
By jackieg
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is probably the worst and shortest book I've ever read.
I have read a lot of David Hewson, whom I find eminently readable, but not this time. Also, I wouldn't have bought this for a start if i'd known it was so short.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars conned 26 Oct. 2011
By diabla
Format:Kindle Edition
This was a good story but I was very disappointed at how short it was. I read it in less than 20 minutes - when I purchased it, I believed that it was a novel. Maybe I should have realised as it was a quarter of the price of the other novels but I do feel conned nevertheless.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A short story rather like those found in literary magazines 27 Jan. 2013
By Kelly Howard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I wanted to write a review that would offer a bit more information & opinion about this short story than was provided by the official description & the single customer review (so far). This offering by Hewson is not only a very strange story, it is a fairly uncategorizable one. I can see why the official description was a bit sparse & includes the phrase "...explores another side to the Rome [Hewson]'s chronicled in his bestselling Nic Costa series." Ummm yess, this is definitely another side to Rome...and I am including Rome of the Romans, those ultimate masters of the orgy, and the sexual weirdnesses therein.

This story reminds me of some of the stuff I have read in literary magazines and in writers' workshops; strange characters doing strange things but the story is "actually" about something else entirely (though this is better than most anything I read at Breadloaf). In "Judith and the Holy Ferns," a bizarre sexual scene is played out but the story is not really about sex; it's about control, subjugation, freedom and lack thereof, abuse, how accidents of fate or atrocities committed by others can force people into rigid and unnatural roles or, perversely, bring about positive transformation, about the masks people wear to hide their true selves. I think. I was always rather bad at sussing out the *TRUE MEANINGS* of stories; I have often committed the idiotic mistake of thinking a story about a horse could actually be a about a horse.

So, the plot: Mary works as a companion & maid to Mr Carstairs, an elderly British art expert (he helpfully explains to her that he is "involved in art"). They have travelled to Rome for a few days for an art exhibit which features, among other works, paintings of Judith and Holofernes, from whence comes the title of the story, which is how Mary mis-hears Mr Carstairs' pronunciation of the title. The importance of the paintings --in more ways than just as source of the title of the story-- should not surprise anyone who's read Hewson's Nic Costa books; art and artists, especially Caravaggio, are frequently featured and often play significant roles in the plot, characterization, and those pesky 'meanings.'

We learn that Mary's duties include satisfying the old man's "friskiness," by which I do not mean she plays pingpong or even has pillow fights with him; it involves a strange sexual ritual which requires a special chair, riding crop, mask, outfit & script for Mary and, God help us all, a parrot (actually a cockatoo at home; the parrot is a temporary local stand-in, needed because of Italian animal importation restrictions). PETA would not approve, although no birds are harmed in the satisfaction of Mr Carstairs' desires. On the contrary; males reading this story may well find themselves curled protectively up in a wad, Kindle clutched in white-knuckled hands.

But I digress. The exceedingly weird (or maybe I'm just hopelessly conventional) sexual scene proceeds and Mr Carstairs, Mary, and the parrot develop and change as characters. Not long thereafter, the curtain comes down, the players exit the stage, and I was left to drag my eyebrows back down out of my hairline. This is one of those stories that might cause readers to approach an author warily, ready to bolt if the author reaches toward them.
Anyway, I really have no idea how many stars to give this story. I wish I could put it on a completely different scale; 3 out of 5 Antarian pherblongs, say, to reflect the feeling that it's quite outside the ordinary. Did I like the story? I honestly am not sure. But I have spent quite a few hours thinking & reflecting about it, which is never a bad sign of any written work.

Some people will undoubtedly be shocked or offended by the sexual elements of the story, which are integral, fairly brief, & very plainly & vividly described. And which still make me cringe, even though it's been a coupla years since I read the story, I think. I was surprised how clearly I remember the story (as of Feb 2014). Unlike much of the dreck I read, this story sprang vividly to mind long after reading it. I've upgraded the review from 3 stars to 4, b/c as time passes, the story hasn't faded or released its hold on my mind. Pretty darn good for a short story.
4.0 out of 5 stars Judith and the holy ferns 28 May 2013
By Raepete - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A short but good read. I wanted to see Judith step up and start living a good life that she well deserved
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star 13 Nov. 2014
By Catherine A. Birdsall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written, but not what I expected.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste! 27 Oct. 2012
By Italian Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a short story. Very odd. Very depressing. Cannot find a single nice thing to say.
The title is misleading. Do not waste your time or money on this one.
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