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These Dark Things (A Captain Natalia Monte Investigation) Hardcover – May 10, 2011
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“Where better to set a noir police procedural than in streets awash in uncollected trash, against a backdrop of smoke rising from Vesuvius? ... Donna Leon owns Venice, and David Hewson rules Rome. With this formidable debut novel, Weiss lays claim to Naples.”—Boston Globe
“When Jan Merete Weiss's Captain Natalia Monte investigates the murder of a beautiful young university student, she must thread an uneasy path between childhood loyalties, religious superstition, corrupt officials, growing piles of garbage, and warring factions of an entrenched Camorra, a criminal organization that predates the better-known Mafia. Weiss has done her homework, walked the pestilent streets, prowled the catacombs below the city, and created a thoroughly human woman who will do what she must to protect her part of a city that both enchants and infuriates her.”—Margaret Maron, author of The Deborah Knott Series
“Naples may be a city of charm and history, but it festers with crime, whether individual or organized. And it forms the backdrop for Jan Merete Weiss' absorbing debut novel.... Weiss invests her debut with a plot replete with shocks, her characters—even the minor ones—are drawn with care and come alive as complete beings on the page, and her vivid portrayal of Naples, in its glory and its gloom, is unforgettable.... These Dark Things tells a dark story and marks the beginning of what promises to be a bright series.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“[F]ull of intriguing contradictions and cultural clashes between modern Naples and its past, and Merete Weiss confidently weaves them into this distinctive mystery.”—Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“Captain Natalia Monte, of the Carabinieri, and her Buddhist partner are intriguing opposites in their temperaments and their approaches to an investigation.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, picked up by: Star-Ledger, Grand Forks Herald, Kansas City Star
“The most intriguing aspect of this appealing debut is the female perspective it offers on the Neapolitan criminal underworld, both from Natalia’s side as a Carabinieri officer and from the points of view of the women who work for the Camorra. Full of vibrant descriptions of Naples and boasting a solid mystery plot, These Dark Things heralds the arrival of a most promising series. Recommend it, in particular, to fans of Michael Genelin’s Jana Matinova series.”—Booklist
“Just when we thought all the possible plots had been taken, Weiss brings us a new police procedural set in Naples, Italy, that taxes the brain and gives us pause for the future of society… Natalia’s a favorite type of heroine because she’s no saint herself, so dig in and prepare to be riveted by this intense and violent read. VERDICT: Natalia represents a new era in Italian culture in which women can operate effectively as authority figures. For all readers who love a complex story fraught with tough decisions about friendship, family loyalties, and justice.”—Library Journal
“Absorbing. . . . The corruption of the Neapolitan bureaucracy, mirrored by the stench from uncollected garbage in the streets, taints but cannot overcome the vitality of the city. Weiss renders its bustling trattorias and colorful neighborhoods with flair.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Jan Merete Weiss grew up in Puerto Rico. She studied poetry and painting at the Massachusetts College of Art and received a Master's degree from NYU. Her poems have appeared in various literary magazines. She lives in New York and lectures at Lehman College.
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Atmosphere is everything in this book. We watch feral dogs fighting over garbage scraps. We follow an old bone cleaner on her rounds of crypts. We see a woman chanting to protect a baby from the evil eye. We hear an explosion in the distance – the mob blowing up a car... The mob is everywhere in Naples, even connected to Natalia’s friends.
There are lots of cultural tidbits. The author introduces us to the ancient practice of second burial and the crypts haunted by followers of the Cult of the Dead. She takes us into the hive of subterranean passageways under the city dating back before the Romans. She describes the tests of loyalty for entering the Camorra, and explains the differences between the Camorra and the Mafia.
The mystery is a good one, with a surprising solution. And there's a lot of excitement along the way -- as well as a dash of romance.
This promises to be an intriguing series.