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A Visible Darkness: A Mystery Hardcover – April 14, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1 edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312544359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312544355
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,048,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Set in 1808, the superb third whodunit from the pseudonymous Gregorio (the husband-wife team of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio) to feature Prussian magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis (after 2008's Days of Atonement) subtly probes the heart of human darkness. When a woman who collects precious amber, a resource Napoleon hopes to use to generate funds, is horribly butchered, Stiffeniis must work for his French occupiers to solve the mystery. As more victims follow the first, Stiffeniis's hopes of a speedy resolution that would enable him to be present for his latest child's birth are dashed. Aided by Johannes Gurten, an odd apprentice who's adopted Buddhism, the sleuth attempts to get cooperation from those working at all levels of the amber trade to identify the killer's true motive. While some readers will anticipate the solution, the pitch-perfect evocation of the period and the compelling, gloomy atmosphere more than compensate for any lack of surprise. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Upon finishing this third mystery featuring nineteenth-century Prussian magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis, readers are likely to give thanks for modern medicine and hygiene. As a serial killer methodically hacks and slices his (or her) way along the Amber Coast of the Baltic Sea, Gregorio takes every opportunity to supply vivid descriptions—not just of the killer’s handiwork, but also of various unpleasant anatomical inner workings. Amid the viscera, there is a crime to solve. With his wife due to deliver their fourth child and the Napoleonic Wars raging, Stiffeniis is called away to Nordcopp, where he is charged with finding the person responsible for murdering an amber collector. Unfortunately, his investigative talents, learned in Critique of Criminal Reason (2006) from no less than Immanuel Kant, cannot prevent further grisly deaths. Gregorio uses the idea of amber as a metaphor to evoke the passion of those who trade the stones as well as to suggest the evil strength and perverted intelligence of his villain, a horrifying blend of Hannibal Lecter and Joseph Mengele. Philosophy and chemistry run amok in this intelligent, compelling, but definitely difficult-to-read thriller. --Jen Baker

More About the Author

Michael Gregorio
Behind the pen-name, Michael Gregorio, there are actually two writers, a husband and wife, who live in Spoleto, a small town in central Italy. Daniela De Gregorio was born there, while Michael G. Jacob hails originally from Liverpool, UK.
Daniela teaches philosophy and history; Mike used to teach English and the history of photography.

"Our first published novel, "Critique of Criminal Reason" (2006), was set in French-occupied East Prussia during the terrible winter of 1804. A young magistrate, Hanno Stiffeniis - a former pupil of the philosopher, Immanuel Kant - is sent to Königsberg when a string of bizarre killings provoke terror in the city...
We are fascinated by the nineteenth century, the explosive clash of new and old ideas. Fortunately, a lot of readers seemed to share our interest. The novel was translated into 22 languages, including Chinese, Russian, Japanese (we love the cover!), and Taiwanese. Playboy magazine declared "Critique" to be one of the 20 best books of 2006. We were amazed!
"Days of Atonement," the second investigation featuring Hanno Stiffeniis followed on in 2007. The novel explores the murderous consequences of the imposition of the Napoleonic laws on life in Prussia in 1807. The French Revolutionary declared that men and women of every colour, race and creed were equal. In theory, it was true. But even then, in early nineteenth-century Prussia, the Jews were a special case...
The latest in our continuing series of historical thrillers is "A Visible Darkness." Hanno Stiffeniis is ordered by the French to put an end to the killing of women who work on the remote Baltic shores, collecting precious amber. Published for the first time in April, 2009, by St Martins Press in the USA, the Faber edition of the novel has just been released in England."
All three books received starred reviews from Publishers' World.
Website:
www.michaelgregorio.it


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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The history is excellent and the story line compelling.
Rob Pudim
The third work in Michael Gregorio's historical fiction/mystery is a wonderful follow-up to the first two.
Robert Abidor
Suspenseful with well-depicted characters, some grotesque, almost Fellini-like.
Miss Kitty

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Abidor on April 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The third work in Michael Gregorio's historical fiction/mystery is a wonderful follow-up to the first two. Gregorio (actually a husband and wife team) immediately drives the reader into the arcane world of amber mining on the Baltic Coast. Hanno Stiffeniis, the hero, is a Prussian magistrate serving the French rulers. His task: to solve the murders of two female amber miners so as to increase amber production. Hanno has to deal with numerous roadblocks placed by his French masters as well as overcoming the view that he is a traitor to his Prussian co-patriots.
Gregorio is a master at setting the stage. The brutality of conditions that the woman face in recovering the amber from underneath the cold Baltic waters is mind boggling. The antipathy of the French occupiers harkens the reader to conditions our soldiers must face in Iraq as they go about their tasks. Yet Hanno manages to overcome all of the hurdles to once again use the talents he learned from Immanuel Kant to solve the crime.
While prior reading of the first two books in not critical to understanding A Visible Darkness, why deprive yourself of two great books? Readers of C.J. Sansom's books will find A Visible Darkness serious competition. If you are looking for an alternative to historical fiction that apes Dan Brown, A Visible Darkness is a must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By corglacier7 on April 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Michael Gregorio's third mystery with Procurator Hanno Stiffeniis once again brings the magistrate more than his share of troubles. Living as a Prussian in territory occupied by French troops after the disastrous Battle of Jena, the reader learns, has its share of humiliations both large and small. And yet when a string of murders occur amongst the amber gathering girls working on the shores of the Baltic Sea, the French turn to Stiffeniis and his proven track record to solve the crime. After all, there's a need to keep the trade in priceless amber flowing and thus keep the French war machine running in Spain.

Stiffeniis is certainly caught between a rock and a hard place. Being known to cooperate with an invading force and help assure their continued stripping away of his country's wealth and resources is a risky endeavor. But on the other hand, Prussian women are being murdered, and someone needs to stop the killer. And perhaps with success the French might be obliged and owe a few favors to his town of Lotingen? So, bidding his wife Helena farewell, he heads to Nordkopp to try and stop a monster.

That moral dilemma seems to characterize the shades of grey that pervade the book: few characters and situations are fully what they seem on the surface. Stiffeniis himself lives in fear of the blacker regions of his own soul, a thing he has admitted to few people--the foremost being his mentor, Immanuel Kant, who encouraged his turn to criminal investigation. Each crime he investigates seems to evoke both a passion for justice and a need to better understand that inner darkness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on August 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Chafing under the heavy yoke of French occupation, Prussian magistrate Hanno Stefaniis, buttoned-up and artistic, becomes a little more daring with every outing.

It's the summer of 1808 in this third book and Napoleon's army is tramping through Hanno's Baltic hometown of Lotingen (fictional) on its way to recalcitrant Spain. For three weeks the filth of an army of men and their horses has piled up in the streets. "The French would not clean up after themselves. No Prussian would clean up after the French."

In light of this impasse, "The street was a dark brown carpet, and all above was a dense dark cloud of flies and other insects." This is the mildest of descriptions in a vivid opening chapter. Hanno's very pregnant wife is nearly catatonic with disgust and dread.

When Hanno is called upon by the French to solve the murder of an amber worker up the coast, he strikes a bargain. If he solves the murder the French army cleans Lotingen. Not that he really has any choice.

Amber seems to have worked its strange ways upon the environs of Nordcopp village, where the people are secretive and suspicious. Amber is mined below the surface of the sea - hard and dangerous work. Workers mutilated from blasting eke out a beggarly living in the village. Others drown in the unpredictable sea.

The French covet the stuff to fuel the needs of their army, but amber strikes a patriotic flame in the hearts of Prussians as well as personal greed. The French commander, who revels in affronting Hanno's fastidiousness with his arrogance and personal crudeness, is obsessed with creating a machine to mine amber and free himself of Prussian workers.
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Format: Hardcover
"A Visible Darkness," by Michael Gregorio (the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio), is set in Prussia during the French occupation of 1808. The dramatic opening chapter, in which the author describes a horde of flies, beetles, and ants that are infesting the filthy town of Lotingen, foreshadows far more gruesome scenes to come. The weather is stifling and enemy troops have deposited tons of refuse throughout the town: "French horses fouled our streets, as did the cows and the sheep that fed the troops. If an animal dropped dead, they left it there to rot." The only respite from the stench is to stay at home with the widows tightly shut.

The protagonist and narrator is Procurator Hanno Stiffeniis, whose beloved wife Helena is expecting their fourth child. Much to his consternation, Hanno is ordered by the imperious French commander, General Louis-Georges Malaport, to investigate a series of grisly murders near the Baltic coast. This is very bad news: First, Hanno will have to leave his wife and children shortly before Helena is due to give birth; second, he fears that his Prussian compatriots will brand him as a French collaborator; and third, Hanno knows that he will be under enormous pressure to produce quick results, since the occupiers have an ulterior motive in wanting the crimes solved as soon as possible.

The French are obsessed with amber, a precious commodity that they are pillaging from the Prussians. Desperately poor women are working under deplorable conditions to extract the amber from the sea and prepare it for export: "In their gleaming leather garments, each one holding up a spear or net on a long pole, they looked like insects, their antennae twitching defensively as if they feared to be attacked.
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