Search This Blog

Thursday 2 May 2019

Book review: A Dead Man in... Naples

Michael Pearce's cozy crime novel (2009) captures the period of Naples just prior to the First World War (1913): ‘Things spilled out from the workshops: wood from the carpenters and turners, sheets of cork newly cut from the trees on the hills above the city, great sweeps of sailcloth spreading right across the street, blocking off the view; half-completed rush mats, wickerwork baskets and chairs still being worked on, their spokes pointing up into the air, low wooden racks filled with pipes in various stages of progress.’ (p110)

There’s plenty of light humour, too: ‘The people he tried speaking to in the street were nearly incomprehensible, especially if, as was often the case, their reply came from a mouth practically without teeth.’ (p111)

This is one of several books in the ‘A Dead Man in…’ series concerning the Special Branch police officer Seymour working for the Foreign Office. This time he’s called to Naples as a consular official called Scampion has been murdered in the street. Much of the plot revolves around the new craze of bicycling and an upcoming race, which might involve the Camorra, the secret society, political chicanery, gambling and thwarted love.

The characters are well drawn, mostly revealed through dialogue, but there’s little in the way of ‘show’, it’s mostly ‘tell’ by the characters’ speech. Seymour and his fiancée Chantale do not involve the reader, sadly, though they have their uses to join the dots to arrive at the (fairly obvious) solution to the mystery of Scampion’s demise.

Editorial comments
Very few typos, but here’s one:

‘Where they children of my people…’ – 'Where' should be 'Were'. (p102)


Betting slip: ‘The one you found in your brother’s trousers?’ (p104) Unfortunately, the slip was found in her brother’s shorts.

Characters beginning with the same initial (writers should try to avoid this to avert confusion!):

Giorgio and Giuseppi. (There are plenty of Italian male names to choose from, after all!)
Scampion and Seymour.

No comments: