I am so excited that Cesare Aldo is back in DV Bishop’s latest historical fiction/mystery The Darkest Sin!
It’s the Spring of 1537 in Florence, and Casare Aldo is sent to investigate a claim that a man has been seen infiltrating a convent in the North of the city. With the many secrets and ambitions the women inside hide, as well as outside church pressure and interest, Aldo has his work cut out for him. And then the dead body of a naked man is discovered!
While in this region, we also come across Aldo’s niece, allowing us to see more into his past and background, and we also have a subplot with eager young Constable Strocchi investigating a case that may be too close for comfort for Aldo.
I am so happy to be back in the world of Cesare Aldo, which is so well researched and understood that 1500’s Florence really leaps off the page. What this book series is doing so well is not just excellent, evocative historical fiction, but elevating the mystery plots. There are a lot of police procedurals out there and mystery series set in many different historical eras, but here the mystery is the string we follow through the maze that is the politics and family rivalries of the church and state in Florence at the time. It’s all very Machiavellian, full of scheming, and while Cesare wants to find out the truth, and so do we as readers, the truth coming out publicly, or meeting justice, is often secondary to playing the game in order to survive. It makes for detailed and complex reading. This is a series that’s about the journey and the characters in their world, as much as the mystery, but the mystery plots have both been excellent.
This book picks up where the last left off, and there are quite a few recurring characters. I really liked the way the author dealt with this. Just when I was trying to remember who someone was from the first book, the author reminded me, but in such a way that it felt seamless. No heavy handed exposition here. This is the second in the series, and while I think you could read this one without reading the first, I recommend reading them in order.
Something else I think this book does really well is the way it handles Cesare Aldo’s sexuality. It’s accurate to social ideas about homosexuality at the time and the church’s attitude towards it, without being heavy handed or belabouring the point, or turning Aldo or the people around him, into some kind of stereotype. Aldo is a really sympathetic and well written character, and I like him a lot.
Overall, I highly recommend this series, and I think I maybe enjoyed this book even better than the first. I hope there will be more of these books. I will definitely be a loyal reader.
Read It If: you’re a historical fiction or a crime/mystery reader especially, though I do think this one appeals to a really wide readership and comes highly recommended by me.
Thank you to PGC Books for the copy of this book for review.