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Interview: D.V. Bishop talks about The Darkest Sin

D. V. Bishop is an award-winning screenwriter and TV dramatist. His love for the city of Florence and the Renaissance period meant there could be only one setting for his crime fiction. He talks to NZ Booklovers about The Darkest Sin.


You won the NZ Booklovers Award for Fiction in 2022, and congratulations now for being shortlisted in the NZ Booklovers Awards 2023! Can you tell us a little about your shortlisted novel, The Darkest Sin?

It is a historical thriller set in Renaissance Florence. Cesare Aldo is an officer for the most feared criminal court in the city. Sent to investigate reports of intruders climbing over the walls of a convent, he discovers a naked male corpse inside – stabbed dozens of times and covered in blood. All the evidence suggests one of the nuns must be a killer, but can that be true?


What inspired you to write this book?

Long ago I went to high school across the road from a closed convent in Auckland. Only one nun ever came or went from there, the rest remained inside. That always fascinated me! What would it be like living in such a community? What would happen if one of your fellow nuns was violent, even dangerous? When the time came to write my second Cesare Aldo novel, I remembered that closed door in the convent wall and knew I had to set my story inside such a community. Plus, it gave me the chance to write a locked room murder mystery, which was great fun.

What research was involved?

Lots! I went to Florence in search of a convent from the 1530s that was still in its original use or had been preserved. There are monasteries from that time that survive intact, but much of the history of women from then is missing, was destroyed, or never recorded at the time. Fortunately, a few original chronicles from convents of the period remain so I read those. Particularly helpful were letters written by a nun who was one of Galileo Galilei’s illegitimate daughters. Those survived in his personal archive and offer a fascinating insight to life within a convent during the Renaissance.

What was your routine or process when writing this novel?

I wrote The Darkest Sin during the British lockdowns of 2020 (I’m an expat Kiwi, living in Scotland). That meant my day job running the creative writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University suddenly had to go online, which was an enormous amount of work. I was scratching out what time I could find to write, which made the process rather anxiety-inducing. To add to the challenge I chose to draft the novel with no idea who the killer was or how my detective Cesare Aldo was going to prove their identity. I wanted the reader to discover that the same time that I did. It was rather more stressful than I had planned or expected!

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

Ooh, what an interesting question! I always listen to instrumental music when I’m writing, usually film scores. In the case of The Darkest Sin, that was Howard Shore’s music for the film Doubt. The track ‘Confrontation’ from that album nicely captures the on-edge feeling of the novel.

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

Shaun Evans – who plays the young Morse in the TV series Endeavour – would make a great Cesare Aldo, while Keeley Hawes is great casting for the Abbess.

What did you enjoy the most about writing The Darkest Sin?

Probably finishing it, to be honest! Writing the second book in a series is much harder than the first, because you must introduce characters and settings to new readers while not trying the patience of those who came back for more after enjoying book one. Plus, there was second-album-syndrome anxiety, wondering if I could recapture the magic from the first novel. I worried it was a quieter book, a smaller scale story, and getting the pacing right was tricky too. But the reviews and ratings for this one are actually higher than those for City of Vengeance, so I guess I pulled it off!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I was given a sneak preview of You’d Look Better as a Ghost by Joanna Wallace, which is coming out later this year. It was pitch dark yet laugh out loud funny. It’s not often you’re rooting for a serial killer to get away with their crimes, let alone hoping for a sequel!

What’s next on the agenda for you?

My third Cesare Aldo novel Ritual of Fire is published in June (2023) by Pan Macmillan, and I’m already writing number four. After that we shall have to see what happens…


Pan Macmillan

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