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A Few Drops of Blood (Captain Natalia Monte) by Jan Merete Weiss
Cover Artist: Paul Gooney / Arcangel Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616953539
Date: 22 April 2014 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Publisher's Author Page / Read an excerpt / Show Official Info /

In Naples, Captain Natalia Monte of the Carabinieri investigates the bizarre discovery of two corpses in the garden of Countess Antonella Cavazza. Shot dead are two prominent gay men, a museum curator and a gossip columnist. They have been stripped naked and positioned astride the statue of a horse as though they were posing for a homoerotic photograph. Natalia and her new lesbian partner, Corporal Angelina Cavatelli, investigate the slayings, believing it to be a vendetta killing perpetrated by the homophobic Camorra, crime bosses that rule the city by means of violent intimidation. A few drops of blood slowly turn into a river of blood as the two detectives grow closer to a truth that is both perverse and terrifying.

After reading Jan Merete Weiss' provocative thriller, A Few Drops of Blood, I'm afraid to visit Naples, Italy. The citizens, including the Carabinieri, live in fear of the evil, brutal Camorra. Many people, including innocent children, have disappeared because of them. (Sometimes, what is left of their corpses may be found.) Everyone, it seems, is connected to the Camorra. Seemingly ordinary citizens attend Catholic mass and then go home to bag cocaine for distribution. Criminal activity becomes so ingrained in a person's life, beginning when they are a child, that it becomes a part of their soul, dominating it in many ways. Leaders of the Camorra, known as Dons, pay penance by making donations to the church; afterwards, everyone ignores their sins as though they never happened.

Weiss' latest novel (following her superb debut, These Dark Things) is set in the gay community of a city that is experiencing both economic and political turmoil. Natalia and Angelina delve into the homoerotic, sadomasochistic artwork that was sold at an exhibition at the Museo Archeologico. The descriptions of some of the artwork may churn the stomachs of some readers. Several of the gay characters are extremely promiscuous, which is a bad reflection on the gay community and may anger some pro-gay activists. Fortunately, Angelina's lesbian character appears to be extremely respectable and is proving herself to be a dedicated member of the Carabinieri.

Natalia is having emotional issues. Her flaky, ex-boyfriend, Sergeant Pino Loriano, is back in Naples. He and Natalia become lovers again despite him helping a young Camorra girl, Tina Gracci, who may be pregnant with his child. The Carabinieri forbids a romantic relationship between two of its employees. Pino, a practicing Buddhist, is debating on whether to quit and establish a yoga studio. At work, Natalia is harassed by an enemy, Marshal Maresciallo Cervino, for occasionally meeting with childhood friends who are known members of the Camorra. Can she keep her two worlds of Camorra and Carabinieri separate?

With its ancient museums and cathedrals on cobbled streets, flowering flora, widows dressed in black, nuns and priests, beggars and gypsies, impoverished neighborhoods and grand palaces, and the overshadowing, ever omnipresent Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a city rich in history and culture. Many still trust in the old ways, such as magic spells, rather than visiting a medical doctor. Needless to say, homosexuality is frowned upon. However, hypocrisy rules and many secretly engage in alternative lifestyles. Secret is the operative word in this novel. Many must live secret lives. Many harbor secrets that date back to WWII. Everyone must keep secrets if they are to survive in the city of Naples.

Fans of mysteries with exotic locales, high body counts, and gruesome murders will enjoy reading Jan Merete Weiss' A Few Drops of Blood. Homophobics will not enjoy it. I truly admire the heroine, Captain Natalia Monte, for her loyalty to friends and family. She treats everyone with respect and tries not to judge. (She even tries to understand the motivations behind those who dislike her.) It will be interesting to learn if Natalia continues the series with her lesbian partner, Corporal Angelina Cavatelli. Other characters have embraced her. It is the elderly, affluent Contessa Antonella Cavazza who says, "I think it's wonderful these days that people are free to choose whom to love." At least eleven states in America agree with the Contessa, considering they have legalized same-sex marriages.

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