She has managed to cram into plus pages what other less skilled writers would take to accomplish.
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Sam Millar is a crime novelist and also the former owner of a chain of comic book stores, K. Comics, in New York City. Enter your keywords. Author s :. Release Date:. May 9, Buy on Amazon. Reviewed by:.
Sam Millar. Getting in beside him, she closed her eyes and tried to doze as they headed for the crime scene. Near the altar, he pointed to a door, hardly noticeable. Natalia ducked to avoid hitting her head passing through. Someone was coming up the stairs toward them.
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Natalia drew her pistol as a small man came around a turn in the stairwell. I ought to put you out of your misery. Not ever. Luca was an old freelance photographer with a lens for a brain. A nocturnal creature, he lived for a good murder.
Half the time, he arrived at the scene before the police or the Carabinieri. Luca pressed past them in the stairwell. Luca scurried toward the surface. They passed through a large cavernous room, through a long hallway, and into a third room, each decorated with centuries of bones piled onto one another, some organized into categories, some arranged in eerie patterns. Natalia paused to brush dust from her uniform. Despite the Armani design, it was wrinkled from the long night and now covered with grit.
The red bands running down her pant legs were grimy, like her, like the cuffs and collar of her white shirt. A beautiful girl sat on a stone bench in the center of the room. She did look like an angel—a bloody one. She stepped closer, examining the ground. Communing with the dead. Many in Naples still did it. Sometimes she took her granddaughter.
Nonna made herself comfortable on a chair provided there. If there were no other visitors, the clicking of her knitting needles was often the only sound. Such a gloomy city, Natalia thought, but what could you expect in a metropolis where people actually dressed in black so as not to be mistaken by the dead as living souls ripe for haunting? A miracle that anyone got out of bed in the morning at all.
The monsignor was still lecturing. Cirillo was an amateur scholar and led occasional tours of his church and the surrounding neighborhood. Natalia had seen him holding forth outside the church just the past spring. Bombs dropped on Naples every day. Twenty thousand people took refuge down here and in passages and cisterns carved by the Romans in the volcanic rock beneath the city. Murdered elsewhere.
Maybe choked at the same time, given the marks under her jawline. And seriously stabbed. The back of the dress was as red with dry blood as the front was pinkish white. Skulls ringed the victim in a half circle. Lilies rotted near her feet, their scent cloying. A candle burned. The victim was fair with a smattering of freckles, traces of lipstick visible on her mouth.
Natalia walked the perimeter of the room, peering behind stacks of leg bones, wrist bones, finger bones, and skulls. No weapon; only bones and crumbled rock. Something glinted from the rubble. Natalia stepped closer. She slipped her gloves on and picked it up. A small silver heart, untouched by the dust—an ex-voto, a votive offering. Sixteenth-century worshippers had left them as offerings to the saints in gratitude for healing a broken limb, a diseased lung. Clerics as well as laypeople believed in them. Nowadays, most considered them quaint. Most, but not all. Ex-votos were usually miniature replicas of hands and feet or lungs.
A heart was unusual. It suggested someone unsophisticated. Or was that a ruse? A spurned lover? Or a mad person? Maybe both and the same. It was to make fave dei morti —the broad beans of the dead, the dough molded into the shape of bones. Not a Neapolitan tradition. Long after Cousin Rosalia passed and every November until her own death, her mother continued baking them. And hedge her bets, Natalia thought.
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