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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
(4.5 stars) Fans of Stieg Larsson's Mikael Blomqvist and Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole will find Maurizio De Giovanni's Baron Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi, the Neapolitan police hero of the first of four projected mysteries, a completely different kind of character. Commissario Ricciardi is neither as hard-boiled as Blomqvist nor as damaged by alcohol as Hole. In this novel, which is far more operatic in its structure than the Nordic novels, Maurizio De Giovanni creates a main character who feels far more sympathetic than those other two heroes. Now thirty and orphaned, Ricciari has no woman and no family life. He works at least twelve hours a day investigating the most challenging murders in Naples, and he is obviously still suffering from a trauma which occurred when he was a child and led to the first of his "Incidents," moments in which he connects with the souls of the immediately departed, seeing these victims in their last moments and overhearing their final thoughts.

Set in Naples in 1931, the novel takes place during the early rule of Benito Mussolini at a time in which the gap between the wealthy and poor is enormous, and De Giovanni uses these contrasts throughout the novel. Ricciardi and his only friend, Brigadier Raffaela Maione, age fifty, are called to the Royal Theatre of San Carlo to investigate the death of the world's greatest tenor, Arnaldo Vezzi, scheduled to sing the role of the clown in Pagliacci, murdered with a shard of mirror from his dressing room. When Ricciardi finds the body, it softly sings an aria, which, translated, reads: "I will have vengeance, My rage shall know no bounds, And all my love. Shall end in hate." Vengeance, rage, love, and hate, and their corollaries of pride, power, envy, jealousy, are the emotions Ricciardi believes are behind all murders. "They were present in every crime."

Ricciardi hates opera, being "contemptuous of those colorful costumes, those modulated voices, those archaic, cultured words in the mouths of poor devils who were actually starving to death," and he "didn't like the theatrical representation of emotions...[which] never came in just one flavor...there were a thousand facets to [them]." Accordingly, he becomes friendly with a priest, Don Pierino Fava, who provides him with crucial information. Polar opposites in their views of life, the priest and Ricciardi also share their philosophical beliefs. At one point, however, Ricciardi horrifies the priest, exclaiming, "For you damnation is only a word. Believe me when I tell you that damnation is the relentless perception of sorrow...other people's sorrow that becomes your own, that stings like a whip... that infects your blood."

Consummately romantic, with exaggerated but likable characters and heart-breaking situations more akin to opera than to realism, Maurizio De Giovanni's surprising mystery is both dramatic and compassionate, filled with a kind of resonance rare among dark mysteries. Lovers of opera, and I am one, will be intrigued with all the references to love, vengeance, murder, sorrow, pride, envy, and jealousy which seem to motivate most operas - and murders. As is also the case with opera, the characters are sometimes stereotyped, their actions pre-ordained by the traditions of operatic plot. The reader understands that a significant amount of "willing suspension of disbelief" is necessary here, and as Ricciardi's own life, like those of the other main characters, is also its own romantic opera, there is no pretense of realism in this fascinating, over-the-top mystery.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2013
Don't expect a thriller but it's a stylish whodunnit. Had early reservations re the supernatural visionary talents of the Commissa' but glad I read on. Opera fans will particularly enjoy the setting/background, but non-opera folk shouldn't be put off.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 February 2014
I Will Have Vengeance is a locked room mystery set in an opera house. The story has a well realised sense of place, especially with respect to the San Carlo Theatre, and nice historical contextualisation, placing the reader in Naples in 1931 and its warren of streets, sights and sounds. The plot is well constructed and has a couple of decent red herrings and blind alleys. The story seemed to wobble a bit towards the end, but De Giovanni finds a plausible and fitting resolution. The real strength of the book, however, is the characterisation. There is a well penned set of supporting actors, but star of the book is undoubtedly the troubled and mournful Commissario Ricciardi, who’s haunted by the ghosts of the dead that surround him and conducts a love affair which involves no contact or words. Whilst the story is generally well told, I did on occasion find myself skipping back pages or re-reading sentences to decipher meaning, which was a slight distraction. Overall, an interesting and engaging historical mystery and I look forward to catching up with Commissario Ricciardi in the future.
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on 26 August 2014
He sees dead people. A green-eyed, morose, aristocratic, senior policeman who unsettles his colleagues. He's damaged, naturally, by this curse of seeing those who have died violently - he sees their wounds and feels their final emotions. He has difficulty making friends and is isolated. Women seem to find him attractive tho' - surprise, surprise.

Set in 1930's Naples with the rise of fascism and its inherent threat of irrational brutality, the scene is set for an unsettling story.

Characters are competently given back-stories, relationships are explained, motivations explored and unearthed. Imagery is nicely satisfying and surprising at times. So why only three stars?

I was disappointed. In the middle third of the book I found my mind wandering repeatedly and I kept on putting the book down. The mystery lost dramatic tension and I flagged. I'm glad I persisted to the end because things picked up again. I will probably buy more of these, to read in order of publication, but only if the price is right.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2012
A unique protagonist and an unusual setting made this book a great read as well as typically Italian in that the solution to the mystery isn't as important as the people and their stories. If you are fans of Camilleri or Bordelli, I recommend you give this a try.
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on 10 May 2014
I had picked up another novel by this author in the Library but before I read that, bought this for my Kindle. I found it intriguing and enjoyable - if somewhat fanciful. The descriptions of Naples and its people are vivid; the placing of the story in the time of Mussolini adds to the interest. The detective is unusual though there are one or two stock characters such as his Chief who is, as so many, unimaginative, stupid and self-serving. But it was enjoyable enough to make me look forward to reading the book I had originally borrowed. Unfortunately, although de Giovanni has written several books about the same detective, none of the others have been translated into English.
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on 1 May 2015
This, was enjoyable enough to buy the next two 'Ricciardi' without even 'looking inside'. The Commisarrio was believable, had an unusual 'gift' or 'curse' depending on your point of view, which I 'swallowed' without a blink, the 'drawing back of his curtain' in the evening was touching and revealed a further aspect to a complex character. The scenes and feel of Italy in this pre war setting were authentic and fascinating and I so enjoyed the opera loving priest who got embroiled in the crime. I'm looking forward to the next.
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on 28 January 2015
I love the European noir, it is so wonderfully uncompromising. This book didn't disappoint, interesting characters who carried with them a real sense of reality. Great references to local food and drink. A great read.
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on 9 February 2014
Beautifully written book with an extraordinary sense of place, and the amazing hero/anti hero that is Commissario Ricciardi, his characters are very well portrayed.
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on 26 December 2013
Kindle edition delivered to a tablet and then removed itself to a genuine kindle Why? Perhaps someone in Amazon can explain this
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