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by David Hewson
Delacorte, August 2008
480 pages
ISBN: 0385339577

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A perfect mix of history and science, THE GARDEN OF EVIL continues the Nic Costa series. Set in Rome and embracing all of the city’s historical splendor, this novel captures the depth of the place while sending readers on an exciting chase to determine just what significance a painting can hold to solving a murder.

The discovery of two dead bodies (one a French employee of the Louvre and one a petty pickpocket from the streets of Rome) are discovered in an artist's studio in a section of Rome once designated by the Pope as the "Garden of Evil," an area for prostitutes to work. Along with the bodies is a painting that appears to be a Caravaggio, although it is clear that the studio is no longer in use. When a possible perpetrator is located in the nearby courtyard, the deadly chase will have profound consequences for Italian detective Nic Costa.

Costa and other members of the Questura soon uncover a more profound conspiracy linked to the painting found in the studio: prostitutes are being murdered, and at the heart of the crimes appears to be a secret society, which has been in existence for 400 years. The group has been brazenly posting public notes throughout the city, challenging the police. In addition to forensic experts and detectives working the case, a Catholic nun is brought in to uncover the meaning of the painting and determine if it is indeed a Caravaggio.

All of this leads to a very compelling story, a thriller that makes excellent use of Roman history, art, and current events to propel the action forward. The characters are well drawn, the Caravaggio painting is made integral and not a gratuitous plot device, and the story itself challenges modern notions of justice and fair play. This excellent novel is certain to ensure the continuation of the Nic Costa series and bring readers more engrossing stories set in the Eternal City.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, November 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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