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A Season for the Dead (Dell Suspense) Mass Market Paperback – December 28, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

U.K. novelist and journalist Hewson (Solstice) presents the first in a line of thrillers set in Italy and features detective Nic Costa and an ensemble cast drawn from the ranks of the Rome state police. University professor Sara Farnese is at her desk in the Reading Room of the Vatican Library perusing a 10th-century copy of Apicius's first-century cookbook De Re Coquinaria when former lover and fellow university professor Stefano Rinaldi careens into the room dragging a large plastic bag. Rinaldi dumps the contents of the bagâ€"the freshly flayed skin of an adult maleâ€"and quotes the Christian theologian, Tertullian ("The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church"), then takes a couple of bullets in the head from a panic-stricken Swiss Guard. Detective Costa and partner Luca Rossi are outside the Vatican in St. Peter's Square on pickpocket patrol when they catch the news of the shooting on a police scanner, charge into the Reading Room and are quickly kicked out by security man Brendan Hanrahan for jurisdictional reasons ("The Vatican is another country"). Rossi and Costa become officially involved when the skinless remains of Sara's lover and the body of Rinaldi's wife are found strung up in an ancient Roman church. After this rousing beginning, the intricate plot spins off in several directions, involving corrupt cardinal Michael Denney, the Mafia, Vatican secrecy and the serial killer who's murdering Sara's former lovers in ways that mimic famous paintings depicting the martyrdom of selected saints. Outsized, eccentric characters, a complex story and an abundance of historical detail make this engrossing book more than just another cookie-cutter, religious-nut serial killer thriller.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“This enthralling story has it all…Best of all, it’s so seamlessly put together that time flies as you flip pages to get to the end.” —Rocky Mountain News

Intelligent entertainment. Hewson, far more than most thriller writers, has a serious concern for character.” —Washington Post

"Richly enjoyable, sophisticated and beguiling entertainment."—Sunday Times

"Keeps the reader guessing...relentlessly tightening the suspense until the end."—Daily Telegraph

"Engrossing... a complex story and an abundance of historical detail."—Publishers Weekly

"An idealistic detective ... Likeable Nic exudes series potential."—Kirkus Reviews


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Product Details

  • Series: Dell Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Dell; Reprint edition (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440242118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440242116
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. The seventh Roman novel featuring Nic Costa and his colleagues, Dante's Numbers, appeared in October 2008. At the end of 2006 he signed renewed contracts with Pan Macmillan in the UK and Bantam Dell in the US to extend the series to nine books, running to 2012. The titles are published in numerous languages around the world including Chinese and Japanese... and Italian.

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By tregatt on April 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The first novel in a series that is to feature police detective Nic Costa, "A Season for the Dead" proved to be a swiftly paced, taut, police thriller that kept me happily engrossed until I reached the last page.
While the August heat wave bakes the city of Rome (and the few locals left in the city), university professor Sara Farenese sits coolly in the Vatican Library Reading Room perusing Apicius. But unexpected violence soon rocks her remote academic world when a colleague, Stefano Rinaldi, bursts into the room with a gun and a bag. Even as Sara watches, horrorstruck, Stefano flings the contents of the bag on her desk, announces that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church," and is killed by the panic stricken Swiss Guards. But this is just the first in a series of increasingly horrifically violent murders. Hampered by Vatican politics (the Vatican is treated as a separate country and as such the Roman police have no jurisdiction there and are totally dependent on whatever help -- or non-help -- that the Vatican security will give) the police are hard pressed to figure what's going on and stop the mad killer. For young police detective Nic Costa and his partner, Luca Rossi, first at the scene of Rinaldi's death due to happenstance, this is the case that will change their lives and outlooks forever. Moved by Sara's beauty, remoteness and silent anguish, Nic is further drawn to Sara (much to the dismay of Rossi) when the realization dawns that she is somehow at the center of all the madness that is going on. But Sara refuses to be more forthcoming, and Nic is loathe to push her or to believe the worst. Will he have cause to regret his reluctance? What dark secret is Sara hiding, and how will it impact the investigation?
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By saliero on June 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I very much enjoyed this book. It will appeal to and be sought out by readers of series crime novels set in vividly depicted locations. Readers of Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen series, which features another Rome-based cop, Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti, and Barbara Nadel's Istanbul cop, Inspector Ikmen should enjoy this as well.
The identity of the killer is unknown to the reader for about the first half of the book. It is then revealed to the reader, so in that sense there is no last-page denoument. However, there are other mysteries around motivation that propel the mystery forward and keep the reader guessing til (almost) the end!
If you are squeamish about fairly graphic depictions of violence you may not be as drawn to this book. I compare it to some of the scenes in, for example, Carol O'Connell's 'Killing Critics', featuring New York cop Mallory.
Hewson manages to depict a sense of place very successfully, so Rome assumes an identity as a 'character' alongside the human protagonists. Anyone with an interest in the art of Caravaggio will be equally enthralled, as Nic Costa, the young main character cop, is an afficianado. There is some vivid imagery involving several of the paintings of that 17th century Roman 'badboy'.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Carlo Vennarucci on February 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A SEASON FOR THE DEAD is the first in a series of Italian crime thrillers set in Rome featuring Nic Costa as the protagonist. Costa, 27, is an atypical detective in the Rome Questura. He's a straight-laced, health conscious vegetarian and son of an infamous Communist party political organizer, who is dying. He has a passion for the works of Caravaggio.

Things get off to a fast start with a grotesque double homicide in a Roman church with strong similarities to an historic martyr killing within the early Church. Because the victims had ties to beautiful university professor Sara Farnese, she is put under the protective police custody of young Costa. As the plot unfolds with more similar deaths, there is a frantic search for the heinous serial killer who appears to have ties to the Vatican. The Vatican connection is difficult to investigate because of the turf battles between the Questura and the Vatican authorities. The locations used within Rome are off the tourist track and give the reader a better understanding of the underbelly of this great city. The novel is fast moving and exciting with lots of violence and some sex; and there are some unexpected surprises near the end. It brought back memories of Hewson's first novel SEMANA SANTA.

Hewson has created an exceptional array of supporting characters, albeit a few too many were non-Italians. Within the Questura, there is Costa's new partner, Luca Rossi and their hard-nosed boss Leo Falcone. Falcone is disliked by everyone, but is honest and determined. Terese Lupo, the police pathologist, is one very busy lady as the death toll mounts. Within the Vatican, we meet security head Brendan Hanrahan and Cardinal Denney, who has been recently disgraced due to the failure of his corrupt Banca Lombardia.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Bernstein on October 17, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
David Hewson's first book in what promises to be a rewarding series is literate and compelling. The only problem I had with it is the character of Sara Farnese, who, as the book unfolds, turns out to be more and more a character molded by the needs of the plot and less and less plausible as a humn being. That's a shame, but the other characters become more and more human, vivid, plausible, and impressive. I immediately began the second volume of the series, and will read any further installments as they appear.
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