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4.3 out of 5 stars10
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Baron Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi, Commissario of Public Safety at the Royal Police Headquarters in Naples, is a lonely man. Growing up as the orphaned child of a wealthy family and living virtually alone, he possesses a natural reticence, his only real "friend" being his deputy, Brigadier Raffaele Maione, in whom he confides nothing about his private life. On the job, he often goes his own way if he feels justice will be better served, while trying to avoid embarrassing his superiors who, in 1931, are closely associated with Mussolini and his Fascists. Part of Ricciardi's professional success comes from his unique ability to tap into the final thoughts of a victim of violent death by communing with the victim's spirit at the death scene. There he is able to hear the victim's final thought, an experience he refers to privately as The Incident, or The Deed.

This seemingly fantastic premise allows author Maurizio de Giovanni to take his mystery novels in new and unusual directions, while instantly involving the reader in the murder investigation. As the author explores, first, a victim and his/her life, and then the lives of the various suspects, he develops a character-based plot quite different from traditional noir mysteries in which more intricate plots develop from complex external events, often with sociopolitical roots. While novel has plenty of action and a full complement of bloody scenes, the plot here develops more from the complexities of his characters and their personal interactions, than from larger, external crises.

Set in the spring of 1931 in the Sanita area of Naples, the novel introduces a series of characters whose lives further develop but do not always overlap with each other, their stories often moving along separately with occasional connections to Ricciardi and Maione. Shortly after Maione starts to investigate the slashing and disfiguring of the beautiful Filomena Russo, for example, Ricciardi is called to investigate the gory murder of Carmela Calise, a fortune teller and money lender. Many people had reason to kill Carmela, but this is a particularly brutal killing, as is Filomena's slashing, which appears unrelated. Several people come under immediate suspicion, but when Ricciardi visits the murder scene to "listen" to the words of the victim, the message offers no clues.

De Giovanni's gift for description applies equally to his lyrical passages about the beauty of spring and the horrors of a murder scene, but it is his ability to show his characters in scenes which reveal their unique personalities which make this novel stand out. Several characters provide wonderful moments of comic relief. One, the wife of a merchant, never has a word of dialogue, but she is impossible to forget: "a homely monster with a mustache a few hairs short of [her husband's] but a fuller beard." Another minor character provides wry humor about Neapolitan family life: The man, sixty years old, has been engaged to his sixty-two-year-old fiancée for forty years but cannot marry because his eighty-seven-year-old mother objects. In this second of his planned series of four novels which take place in different seasons, de Giovanni continues to develop both Ricciardi and Maione as they investigate the vibrant and often violent life of Naples in springtime.
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An almost perfect novel that transcends crime noir into literature without losing the sense of mystery. Offbeat protagonist--an Italian commissario who literally "sees" and hears dead people (their last words before dying)--who has a very human and likable sidekick.

So much to like about this novel which is set in 1931 Naples, but could just as easily take place in 2013. From the outset the book stitches together the stories of a dozen or so very well-drawn but disparate characters who range from pizza-makers to maids to aristocratic grand dames to actors who mostly connect to the murder of an elderly fortune teller and money lender. The whole tale is woven together with extraordinary skill by author Maurizio de Giovanni who simultaneously elevates his investigating cops into two of the more interesting personalities in current crime fiction.

This is a terrific read that led me to order the immediate sequel (The Summer of Commissario Ricciardi). Promises to be a wonderful series.
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on 12 September 2014
There are some beautifully expressed passages in this book, but the sad thing is I didn't buy it for its beautiful prose. I like the idea - and the hero/anti-hero is great and well described - but it felt really laboured and by the time I got halfway through the book I had sort of lost interest in who was the actual murderer and staggered on merely to get to the end. I think too the translator needs to get up to date - cash in your chips does NOT mean paying back a favour. The story leaps from one scene to another without any markers, gaps etc so at first you are completely confused as to why a particular character has now appeared in the scene you are reading, until you realise that you are now reading a totally different scene. I might, if I had nothing else to read, download another book in the series as by the number of books published it is obviously a popular series and perhaps I'm missing something, but somehow I don't think so.
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on 27 August 2014
Loved this book, great story telling , a good hook in the detecttive being able to 'see ' the victim and hear their final thoughts. Couldnt put it down. The translation was good, couldlnt really tell it was a translated book and not originally written in English.
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on 28 May 2016
Wonderful character brilliant portrayal good story. Ricciardi is addictive so I recommend all the novels. But I preferred I will have vengeance to blood curse. I also think that Hersillia Press ensures a superior translation compared to other publishers.
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on 10 February 2014
I do admire the imagination of this author with his hero/antihero who has second sight, the books have a real sense of time and place and are well thought through. All the characters are well drawn and have real presence.
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on 6 January 2015
The Ricciardi novels are among the finest being produced anywhere in the world. Evocative and otherworldly, the leading two characters, a gifted odd couple, are compelling. This series cannot be recommended highly enough.
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on 27 August 2013
If you have read Commissario Ricciardi 1, (I Will Have Vengeance) published in English by the Hersilia press, you will notice a change with this novel. It is translated into America English and uses American colloquial terms: " ... four guys nobody'd ever seen in the neighborhood .." or "this (customer) was no walk in the park." This may not be a problem for you but I didn't like it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 November 2014
First Sentence: Though no one could possibly know it, the last rains of winter had fallen that afternoon.
Responding to a scream head on his way to work, Brigadier Raffaele Maione finds a beautiful woman whose face has been deeply slashed. It is a case that takes on a very personal interest for him. Called out on a case, Maione and Riccardi find an old woman who has been brutally beaten to death. Her final words? “God Almighty’s not a shopkeeper who pays His debts on Saturday.”
Although it doesn’t impact my rating, I do not recommend the Kindle version of this book, as the formatting makes reading the story quite confusing. Eventually, one gets the hang of it, but it’s not easy. Even so, this is a somewhat challenging book to get into as the beginning is vignettes of numerous characters without our really being told who they are, or how they fit together.
In the beginning, we are given an interesting lesson on status and title, followed by a captivating introduction to Riccardi. He is such an unusual and intriguing character. Ricciardi, is not well liked by his fellow officers or his superior, but he solves his crimes, and more quickly than others. Ricciardi sees the dead; not those who died peacefully, but those who died suddenly from accident, suicide or murder. Not only did he see them, he heard them in the last few moments of their lives; thus, referring to them as The Deed. Maione, his second, is very loyal to him, ever since Ricciardi delivered to Maione a final message from his dead son.
Ricciardi accepts his situation and has even found the one way of making it into a positive. One cannot help but feel for him and yet be very glad he has Maione by his side. Yet, for all his solemnity, Riccardi does have a sense of humor.
One of de Giovanni’s greatest strengths is his descriptions. Whether it be people, settings or emotions, they are powerfully evocative and visual… “It was the spring: it danced on tiptoe; it pirouetted daintily, still young, full of joy, not yet aware of what it would bring, but eager to mix things up a bit. Without any ulterior motives; just for the fun of shuffling the cards.”
The plot is a study of relationships and insecurities. It is a lesson in human weakness, with observations that cause one to stop and consider.
“Blood Curse” is, in the end, a true mystery. It is refreshing to have a detective who does make assumptions, but relies of evidence and motives to identify the killer. This is a fascinating book and a series I highly recommend for those with a taste for the unusual.
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on 13 August 2014
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