Viper: A Commissario Ricciardi Mystery
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Springtime proffers fragrant temptations to the men and women of Naples. But evil also lurks in the sweet-smelling spring air. It is one week before Easter, Naples, 1932. At the high-class brothel in the center of town known as Paradiso, Viper, the most famous prostitute of all, is found dead. Suffocated with a pillow. Her last client swears that when he left her she was alive and well. But when her next client arrived, he found her dead. Who killed her and why? Ricciardi has to untangle a complex knot of greed, frustration, jealousy and rancor in order to solve the riddle of Viper’s death. As he does so, he will discover no end of conflicting emotions just beneath the surface of a city that lives on passion.
De Giovanni’s mysteries unfold with such sinuous ease that they seem to write themselves. They enchant, surprise; they hold readers enthralled. Commissario Ricciardi, whose dubious gift of being able to see and hear the last seconds in the lives of those who have suffered a violent death, is one of the most fascinating investigators to make his appearance in the world of international crime fiction in recent years. And in Vipers, the lustful and boisterous city of Naples has never been more seductive.
Ventrone and Lily? Why do you think she chose to cover up for him about his having been the first to find the dead body, and with your assistance?” The woman saw she was cornered: “I know, I was wrong there. But I didn’t think it mattered much who had found her. Lily has been with us for years, she was here before Viper and she knows the Cavalier very well, they’ve been together so many times, and even now, if Viper wasn’t feeling well, he’d go with her. I assume she did it out of friendship.
“You have a point, it would have been hard to pull off. And anyway, we have plenty of suspects to check out already, without going in search of new ones. Madame, for instance, mentioned that Ventrone has a son who is upset with his father over his obsession with the brothel. The son’s twenty; I think they would have seen him if he’d tried to get in, but he could have pretended to be a customer of one of the other girls. It should be checked out, don’t you think? At that hour, the shop would have
returning home from a night out carousing. One of the four, perhaps recognizing the staff of a place he frequented, said: “Hey, wait . . . Are those the whores of Il Paradiso? All of them out in the street? What are they doing out here?” Another member of the crew gave the accordionist a shove, sending him head over heels with a clattering honk. The instrument crashed to the pavement in spite of the man’s attempt to cushion the blow, and he emitted a strangled shout. A third man, the one who
would glare at you if you just wanted to guffaw loudly, if you had too much to drink, or if you had a hard time keeping your hands to yourself. Amedeo looked lovingly at the butler Armando, who returned the look as he went sailing past with a full tray balanced on one hand. Lily decided it was the height of irony that the only real love affair in that house of love without love should have been a love affair between two men. Amedeo and Armando had secretly been together for years, they spent all
were now heading toward them. Ricciardi started to stand up and leave his hiding place, but Livia stopped him with a hand, whispering: “Don’t move. I’m the one who has to go, otherwise they’ll get scared and refuse to release him.” She got to her feet and walked toward the two men, while the others proceeded in single file toward the waiting ship. LII The men stopped a dozen paces or so away. One of the two—it was now clear both to Livia, who was standing in front of the crates, and to