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.)
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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