David Hewson may well be the finest mystery writer of our time. In
my humble opinion, he's also one of our best contemporary writers,
period. There are elements of Agatha Christie, Graham Greene and
William Shakespeare in his work, but when you sit down and crack
the spine of A SEASON OF THE DEAD or THE VILLA OF MYSTERIES, what
you have is all and uniquely Hewson.
Which brings us to THE LIZARD'S BITE, Hewson's latest work to be
published in the United States. It is the fourth book in a series
of novels featuring Italian policeman Nic Costa, who, along with
his partner, Gianni Peroni, has been exiled to Venice. Reunions
abound in the opening chapters --- some welcome, some not. All,
however, are intriguing, not the least of which is the return of
Inspector Leo Falcone, who has been laboring in Verona. But the
trio is quickly put in the untenable position of investigating a
pair of deaths for which the powers that be --- both official and
unofficial --- have preordained the result.
The situs of the murders is the Isola del Arcangeli, a factory that
produced unique, highly priced and prized glass pieces for decades.
But the factory and the Arcangelo family are suffering from a
thousand cuts: an archaic furnace, cheap knockoffs, a falling
demand. When Uriel, one of the Arcangelo brothers, is found dead in
a fire at the factory, and the body of his wife Bella is discovered
stuffed in the furnace, it is obvious to the local authorities that
Uriel killed Bella and then died accidentally.
Costa and Peroni are directed to make short work of an inverted
pyramid investigation, with their reward being an early return to
Rome. The conclusion is pre-ordained, as far as the local
authorities are concerned. Hewson lets his readers know just enough
to realize that the conclusion is dead wrong. The fun is watching
how the police slowly deconstruct the obvious conclusion, deduce
the correct one and then bring the culprit(s) to justice.
Hewson peppers THE LIZARD'S BITE with a number of interesting ---
and fascinating --- factoids about places and subjects that compel
the reader to find out more on their own. But this common thread
(among others) through Hewson's novels is not performed by rote.
Think instead of a tightrope walker who performs his work daily for
the same audience but introduces a new, and
jeopardous, element every time. That's a Hewson novel. Very
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 30, 2010