Book Review: The Sleeping Nymph by Ilaria Tuti @Ilaria_Tuti @soho_press

The Sleeping Nymph
A Teresa Battagllia Novel #2
Ilaria Tuti
Translated from the Italian by Ekin Oklap
Soho Crime, September 2020
ISBN: 978-1-64129-121-7

To begin with, this is not really my style of mystery– or so I first thought. A bit too poetic, too flowery, too literary for my personal taste. What’s more, having been the caretaker of, and having been there from the beginning with a victim of Alzheimer’s, I can guarantee I don’t enjoy reading about it. Too sad, too damn frightening.

Also, at the beginning, I found myself skipping some passages, several of which failed to move the story along.

But then I became hooked. The mystery involves a painting, glorious and lifelike of a beautiful young woman, which dates from World War II. When the painting is inspected by experts, one of their tests reveals that the paint contains not only blood, but matter from a human heart. The woman’s heart? Will it help identify her all these years later? Brought in on what at first seems to be an unsolvable cold case, Superintendent Teresa Battaglia and her team are sent to Val Resia, an isolated area in the Italian mountains. Not only is the superintendent suffering the first stages of Alzheimer’s, but is diabetic and overweight. How is she to cope? All her answers lie in her diary, where she records every thought, every detail of her life.

Meanwhile, another human heart from a recent kill is found guarding the valley entrance, a warning to proceed no further. More people die, fires burn evidence, Teresa’s diary is stolen and creepy things happen in the forest.

When the tension picks up and the role of suspects grows longer, the hunt to uncover the secrets in this strange valley becomes more desperate. The author masterfully brings all the aspects together and ties up the loose ends. The side stories and the lives of the superintendent’s team all become important and necessary to solving the case. I ended up enjoying this book very much, enough to put it on my best mystery list for 2020.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2020.
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel

Book Review: Fever of the Bone by Val McDermid

Fever of the Bone
Val McDermid
Harper, 2010
ISBN 978-006198648-2
Trade Paperback

Val McDermid‘s latest Carol Jordan/Tony Hill novel more than lives up to the expectations raised by the previous books in the series.  DCI Carol Jordan now heads up her own elite Major Incident Team, handling current as well as cold cases, but the status quo is threatened by the new chief constable, as is the team’s consulting arrangement with Dr.
Tony Hill, clinical psychologist and criminal profiler extraordinaire. The tale covers a series of horrendous murder/mutilations of young, seemingly unconnected victims, and an old case into which new life [so to speak] has been infused.  Newly available lines of investigation, of course, in both forensics and information technology, play a large role.  In the current case, not the least of the questions is, what possible motivation could there be in the killing and mutilation of 14-year-olds?

There are few straight lines in the narrative, with scenes alternating from one aspect of the story line to another, but somehow that works to only increase the suspense quotient.  The portraits of Carol’s team members are well-drawn, with each having a distinct personality and set of talents.  I found it fascinating to get inside the head of Tony Hill, a man who is troubled by his own psyche, but whose expertise lies in his ability to get inside of the head of the person whose identity he is hunting.  The intimate [albeit chaste] relationship of Jordan and Hill is, as always, a thing of beauty and wholly satisfying to the reader [if not always to the participants].  The novel is tightly plotted, the writing containing some small gems, e.g., “offer[ing] up information . . . in the spirit of a dog dropping a soggy newspaper at the feet of its human,” and, speaking of an outgoing phone message, “his phone greeting sounded astonished and wary, as if he was taken aback by a ringing piece of plastic that spoke when you lifted it.”

Ms. McDermid manages to find just the right turn of phrase to perfectly capture a mood, or an emotion, often bringing a smile or a nod in the process. Parenthetically, I found intriguing that the number 14 runs through the book in several contexts.  Refreshingly, the cases are ultimately solved through no sudden [read ‘unrealistic’] flashes of brilliance, but by painstaking police work, “old-fashioned coppering,” in the author’s words.  The book is highly recommended.  [The title, in case you were wondering, derives from a T.S. Elliot poem.]

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2010.