For Rome fear is not new. Few cities have had to cope with as much tumult, uncertainty, and intrigue throughout the pace of history as has Rome. The city has a decidedly resigned air about it, as if the citizens are saying 'do your worse, we've been there before, and we will prevail.'
In David Hewson's latest edition of the wonderfully gritty mysteries series featuring a band of police officers and their medical examiner sidekicks a different Rome is presented. This is a Rome that is coping with terror of a different scale - modern terror where one can't tell enemy from friend and where one's enemies seem to appear with sudden, shocking force to strike fear into the hearts of mankind.
The leaders of the G8 are descending upon Rome to meet at the venerable Quirnale Palace. This visit takes on a different light when an assault on a government vehicle leads to the killing of one occupant and abduction of Ministry of Interior official Giovanni Batisti. Soon the core of the city becomes a ghost town as security forces try to keep the world leaders safe inside a protective fence and the unnamed evil out.
Detective Nic Costa and the men and women of the Questura must work in secret to thwart a conspiracy that reaches higher than any of them could have imagined. While coming closer and closer to the truth Costa faces death yet at the same time comes closer to understanding his past then ever before. Such is the skill of Hewson that he can wave these often disparate stories together seamlessly.
To complicate matters even more Hewson brings to life a mysterious group called the Blue Demon that seemed to vanish 20 years ago having committed unspeakable acts of violence. The Blue Demon sect seems to be a perverted version of the Etruscans, whose hedonistic, life-affirming civilization was crushed by the Romans. Is the Blue Demon sending a message to modern society? Comparing us to the corruption of the failing Roman Empire?
As always, Hewson builds an elaborate plot, extending deep into ancient history but with intriguing and realistic connections to modern situations. Will Costa and his determined band of ruggedly individual, anti-authoritarian colleagues be able to equal the equation? Will they be able to discern the smoke and mirrors to uncover the truth behind the Blue Demon and the ritualistic murders?
It was an interesting twist that this book was published on the eve of my trip to Italy . . . while Hewson described Rome in fear I was able to wander a Rome still swarming with tourists. When our trusty band of officers enjoyed a quiet dinner in the ghetto I was doing the same on a quiet piazza. I walked past the Quirnale Palace and thought of Costa, Falcone, and Peroni within. Hewson brings Rome to life in all of its gritty, wonderous glory.
Then I returned home to Toronto on the eve of the G8/G20 visit. Police officers are posted on street corners. Barricades are going up around the central core. Citizens are being told to stay home. Colleagues are fearful for their safety (and having to pay me $ 50 every time they mention the G8/G20 in fear - soon I shall have a return ticket to Rome). Every effort (a billion dollars worth of effort actually) is going into protecting the leaders and keeping those who wish to harm them out.
I'll save my political rants about a world when the citizens are unable to voice their displeasure with government for a different day. Be assured that it is coming.
Hewson has established himself as one of my favourite authors for his ability to breath life and passion into the mundane. The stories are gritty and hard to read at times yet a spark of humanity, of good, always resides somewhere deep within the blackness of the prose. The characters are not one-dimensional, rather they seem as real as your neighbours, as full of human frailties yet promise as the rest of us.
I won't disclose much more of the plot except to say that this book doesn't have the 'typical' Hewson ending. Clearly we are left hanging . . . a sequel is in the works and one is left in suspense. Will good triumph over evil? Do I have to wait another year to find out? ARGH