The Darkest Sin by D V Bishop: thrilling and atmospheric historical crime novel – book review -

When reports of intruders scaling the walls of a Florentine convent reach criminal investigator Cesare Aldo, he privately wonders just how much trouble could come from a house full of nuns.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 12:30 pm
The Darkest Sin by D V Bishop
The Darkest Sin by D V Bishop

But his enquiries take a sinister turn after a naked man is found stabbed to death in a frenzied attack inside the hallowed walls of the convent, and Aldo discovers that the the nuns are harbouring a nest of poisonous rivalries.

Welcome back to the busy, bustling streets of 16th century Florence, home to some of Europe’s most lavish treasures but also a place of menace, danger and Machiavellian politics where corruption and death are only ever a heartbeat away.

The Darkest Sin is the second book in D.V. Bishop’s thrilling and atmospheric historical crime series set amidst the narrow streets and ancient bridges of Florence and starring intrepid court investigator Cesare Aldo, a man not afraid to peer into the city’s darkest corners.

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A former soldier with the skills of an assassin and the sharpest of brains, Aldo is principled, competent, fiercely self-disciplined and fearless in his pursuit of justice but he has a perilous secret that could end his career – and possibly his life – if it was ever revealed. Aldo is a homosexual.

In the spring of 1537, Aldo, an investigator for the Otto di Guardia e Balia, the most feared criminal court in Florence, is looking into reports of intruders at the Convent of Santa Maria Magdalena in the city’s northern quarter and finds a community divided by bitter rivalries, dark secrets, and the work and purpose of the religious establishment.

Aldo suspects Church and State politics are involved in the case but his investigations become far more complicated when a man’s naked and blood-soaked body is found deep inside the convent. He has been stabbed more than two dozen times in what Aldo immediately recognises was ‘a work of hatred.’

Unthinkable as it seems, all the evidence suggests that one of the nuns must be the killer. But Aldo, an excellent judge of what motivates people, suspects there is more to the murder than meets the eye in a city known for its cut-throat society, and he is determined to dig out the truth.

Meanwhile, his fellow officer, Constable Carlo Strocchi, a likeable young man with a promising career ahead of him, finds that human remains pulled from the River Arno are those of Meo Cerchi, another officer of the law who has been missing without trace since winter.

Cerchi, a cunning and brutal man, had many enemies but who would dare to kill an official of the city’s most notorious criminal court?

As Aldo, who has his own dangerous secrets to protect, and Strocchi close in on the truth, identifying the killers will prove more treacherous than either of them could ever have imagined…

Harnessing his love affair with the golden city of Florence, some fascinating slices of real history, and a career as an award-winning screenwriter and TV dramatist, Bishop brings us more gripping action in our sleuthing soldier’s exciting world of excessive wealth, abject poverty, power and intrigue, all drawn with breathtaking precision and authenticity.

Bishop’s knowledge of Florence shines through as the complex, cunning and compelling Aldo is plunged into a seething, simmering web of deadly ambition, perilous secrets, Medici politics and toxic rivalries.

And Aldo is certainly a man perfectly fitted for his time and his place… a resilient and relentless seeker of justice, here teaming up with a like-minded nun on a doggedly determined mission to seek out the truth.

With timely insights into the inequalities facing women in Italian society in the 16th century, an exploration of the powerful role played by the Roman Catholic Church, and the growing tension around Aldo’s covert sexuality, this twisting, turning tale is packed with immaculate research, rich detail and breathtaking authenticity.

History, mystery and the eternal mystique of Renaissance Florence in perfect harmony!

(Macmillan, hardback, £14.99)