Books & Literature

Book Review: The Darkest Sin, by D. V. Bishop

THRILLER: The Darkest Sin is an atmospheric historical thriller by D. V. Bishop, set in Renaissance Florence and is the sequel to City of Vengeance.

A rollicking good read, and a fascinating slice of history.

Cesare Aldo first appeared in D. V. Bishop’s highly successful debut City of Vengeance.

The Darkest Sin reintroduces us to Aldo, officer of the Otto, an investigative and judicial body in Renaissance Florence. It is 1537 and there have been reports of intruders at a convent. Aldo must investigate.  What seems like a relatively uninteresting case suddenly takes a turn when a murdered, naked man is found inside the convent. Who is he? How did he get there? Who murdered him? And why is he naked?

Meanwhile, Aldo’s colleague, Constable Strocchi is on an investigation of his own after discovering the corpse of missing Otto officer, Cerchi. As Cerchi was a man with many enemies, finding his killer is no easy job. And could it be someone close to home?

Bishop knows how to weave a tale and set a scene. Sixteenth-century Florence is painted in all its glory and gore. Considerable research has gone into the development of the convent of Santa Maria Magdalena, including floor plans. There is a richness of detail that adds to, rather than detracts from, the narrative. Aldo himself is a great character: the illegitimate son of a wealthy man, he has spent time in jail, lives in a bordello, and has to keep his homosexuality hidden. Strocchi is a good foil to him, being the straightforward, happily married, solid citizen. Bishop also delivers a fascinating portrait of convents of the time, and the reasons why women of myriad backgrounds chose to go into holy orders.

The plotting in The Darkest Sin is certainly clever, and maintains interest. However, it is so complex, and involves so many seemingly minor characters, that the tension doesn’t fully build, and the final resolution is anti-climactic. When the killer could reasonably be anybody, the reader just doesn’t have a stake in the outcome. So as a crime thriller it doesn’t quite do what it says on the can.

However, this is such utterly enjoyable writing that the reader is drawn into the world of Renaissance Florence, and happily stays the distance. Some of the best scenes are peripheral to the main plot, such as those between Aldo and his secret lover, and those involving his delightful niece, Isabella.  And like any well-researched historical fiction, there is much to learn between these pages, with a lesson delivered in the form of literary enjoyment.

You may never look at convents the same way again!

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: March 2022
RRP: $32.99

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