These Dark Things
Jan Merete Weiss
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". . . passionate tale walks a razor’s edge between fact and fantasy."
An intimate and unforgettable tour through the dark heart of Naples.
Gina Francone, a bone cleaner and relative of a Camorra crime boss, finds a body lain out in a church crypt. Teresa Steiner, a student working on her doctorate, seemed to be a sweet, poor girl and it is Captain Natalia Monte’s job to find out who killed her.
Born and bred in Naples, Natalia knows all roads lead to the Camorra and all the roads are filled with garbage, the visible result of a struggle for control between warring criminal factions. Add a bit of ancient history with Teresa’s college advisor, a nearly blind monk and personal ties to the Camorra, and Natalia finds herself in the middle of a seething Vesuvius of intrigue and danger.
On the face, These Dark Things is a police procedural with a murder at the center. Jan Merete Weiss proves to have much more up her sleeve.
Natalia’s past clouds her professional judgment and obscures the obvious facts in Teresa’s murder, providing a much wider scope to the mystery and the novel. By feeding in the details of Neapolitan politics, history and structure, Weiss makes These Dark Things very dark and very intricate, a literary sleight-of-hand that amazed and entertained that was also appalling. It wasn’t until the very end that I realized who the murder must be. Brava!
To take These Dark Things at face value is a mistake; the novel is so much more. Weiss immerses the reader in subtle details and inches along in what could have been a long short story or novella by adding real world details that add strength and substance to characters plucked from the piazzas and trattorias. The wealth of information about the crime syndicates and the current state of affairs is fascinating as well as frightening and does not detract from what seems to be the main focus of the novel—the murder of Teresa Steiner.
It was obvious that Weiss intended—and delivered—so much more. These characters will continue to live their lives when the murder is solved and the last page read. Each of the characters’ lives is inextricably intertwined and the bargains they make to be able to continue to do their jobs fascinating.
Weiss’s passionate tale walks a razor’s edge between fact and fantasy that makes These Dark Things memorable and the ending stunned me.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell