I Will Have Vengeance—Il senso del dolore By Maurizio de Giovanni
Set in Naples in 1931, the novel takes place during the early rule of Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, at a time in which the gap between the wealthy and poor is enormous. Angelo Garzo, the Vice Questore in charge of Ricciardi’s department, “whose life was dedicated to providing absolute satisfaction to those in power,” warns the department, however, that “There are no suicides, no homicides, no robberies or assaults, unless it is inevitable or essential…A fascist city is clean and wholesome, there are no eyesores.” Ricciardi himself notes, however, that Via Toledo clearly divides Naples into two areas, the wealthy areas at the bottom of the hill, and those of the working class and poor near the top: “the city of feasting and that of despair, the sated city and the hungry one.” When Ricciardi and his only friend, Brigadier Raffaele Maione, age fifty, are called to the Royal Theatre of San Carlo to investigate the murder of the world’s greatest tenor, Ricciardi notes that each time the elegant theatre opens at night, the cafes are “teeming with life and pleasure…music and laughter,” but that upon his arrival, “children in tatters stood on tiptoe [in the winter cold], their bare feet suffering from chilblains, to catch a glimpse of something. ”For them, police investiga-tions are the equivalent of the operas the aristocracy so enjoys. In this case, Arnaldo Vezzi, the tenor scheduled to sing the role of Canio, the clown, in Pagliacci, the second opera on a double bill with Cavalleria Rusticana, has been murdered with a shard of mirror in his dressing room. When Ricciardi enters to find 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 – all emotions Ricciardi believes are behind all murders. Ironically, this aria is from Cavalleria Rusticana, the first opera on the bill, not Pagliacci, which Vezzi himself was scheduled to sing. Arrogant and bad-tempered, Vezzi was hated by many, but with the livelihoods of the opera at stake, who would have committed this callous act? Ricciardi, along with his loyal colleague, Maione, is determined to discover the truth. But Ricciardi carries his own secret: will it help him solve this murder? This is the first book in a quartet of masterful crime novels set in fascist Italy–the series has taken European readers by storm. De Giovanni is a very talented writer. He keeps enough hidden, layers his writing deep enough that the twists and turns come naturally. The combination of an unusual detective, historical setting and Italian opera is impossible to resist. I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi was originally published in 2007 and is the first in a series featuring Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi, Commissario of Police with the Regia Questura di Napoli in 1930s Italy. The series has already been translated into French, Spanish, and German, and its fourth installment (Il giorno dei morti / The Day of the Dead) won the prestigious Premio Camaiore in 2011. It is unobtrusively translated by the experienced Anne Milano Appel and is a easy read. The story is packed with incidents and larger than life characters. It has a simple but gripping plot that cleverly blends in with the operas. It is also full of information for those who are not opera buffs, and is a commentary on the vast social divides that existed in the 1930s.
The Book Club is coordinated by Paola Melara De Sandre
April 17, 2015 at 7pm at 630 N Old Woodward Ave – Ste 102 – Birmingham, MI 48009
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