Set in Florence in 1538 during a scorching heatwave, a macabre crime leaves the entire city on edge. A wealthy merchant is hanged and set ablaze in the city’s main piazza. Not long after, scrolls left around the city proclaim that ‘Savonarola Lives,’ a monk who was executed forty years previously in the same way.
Constable Carlo Strocchi is ordered to investigate the ritual killing while his previous mentor, Cesare Aldo, hunts down thieves in the Tuscan countryside – with one thief providing a crucial link to the new case. The race is on for Aldo and Strocchi to find the killer before he strikes again as the merchants of the city start fleeing to their country estates, and religious fervour incites the mobs.
Ritual of Fire is a superb piece of storytelling that seamlessly blends a genuinely tense thriller with historical details that make you feel you are walking the dangerous streets of Florence or the sun-drenched hills of Tuscany. Strocchi is determined to catch the killer, but as a young father, he wrestles with sleep deprivation, as well as working again with Aldo after a falling out. And what an unforgettable protagonist we have in Aldo – human and vulnerable, principled and resourceful.
D.V. Bishop has won numerous awards for his Italian Renaissance thrillers, including the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Adult Fiction, and his latest novel is a tour de force. You don’t need to read his other novels, City of Vengeance or The Darkest Sin to enjoy this excellent novel, but I predict you will want to devour them also.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Pan Macmillan, RRP $37.99
This review also appeared in the Sunday Star Times.