Title: I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi
Author: Maurizio de Giovanni
Translator: Anne Milano Appel
Publisher: Europa Editions
Genre: Noir, Crime
Crime fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea – to read or to write. It is more so difficult when you are writing crime fiction novels based in a time different than yours, you have to but after all keep in mind how the readers are going to react to those times and situations. At the same time, a writer needs to be more so intelligent when it comes to the plot and the overall series (because when anyone writes a crime novel, according to me it more or less turns to be a series). These and a lot of other elements make for a great crime novel, when synchronized and almost singing to each other.
“I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi” is one such book, written with keen observation and some humour (in some places if not all) by Maurizio de Giovanni. At the core of the novel, as the title suggests is its protagonist, Commissario Ricciardi. The action takes place in Naples. It is 1931 and winter. The cold winds are biting and Ricciardi knows that something is going to happen. Sure enough, a murder takes place; that of one of the greatest tenors the world has ever known – Maestro Vezzi and that too in his dressing room at Naples famous San Carlo Theatre. The enigmatic and quite cold Ricciardi is called in for an investigation, with his loyal colleague Maione. The two make for a fantastic detective duo I have read about in a long time. The murder and its solving make for excellent reading, and that too because of a secret held by Ricciardi.
Maurizio de Giovanni wrote a short story at first and introduced Ricciardi in it. From there on it won a writing competition, and then paved way for other three books in the series. What struck me the most and stayed with me about the book was the setting. Naples in 1930s was something I had never thought I would read of and that too in crime fiction, however I did and I loved it. Ricciardi is a man with a lot of baggage attached and at the same time, the characterization is humane and subtle. There are hilarious moments throughout the book and the writing is sharp and unsettling as well.
At one point the story did lose some pace, but I ignored that aspect, as it lunged right ahead and got me back into the story. This has been the first crime fiction for me of the year and I could not have been happier about the choice. Europa Editions has introduced the “World Noir” series and this is the first installment. I am sure the other titles will be as riveting as this one. At the same time, I cannot wait to read the other three titles published in the Ricciardi series (hoping they will be translated in English). This translation of the first novel by Anne Milano Appel is almost bang-on with description and the sense of place of a crime novel. The great thing that worked for me as well was that I read it during winter (the apt season), so the “relate” factor was high. A brilliant read nonetheless.