Those of you who know my love of books will know that recently I reviewed a book by one of my favourite thriller writers, David Hewson, whose crime books set in the Questura (Police Station) in Rome feature the series which has become known as the Nic Costa series, due to the popular detective of that name. The Blue Demon is the eighth book in the series and was published in 2010. It can be read without reading the others though this particular story is complicated because it involves several different Italian police and their counterparts to the FBI and British intelligence, the Carabinieri or secret service. At the heart of the story is a fictional G8 conference set in Rome and threatened by a ghost from the past, The Blue Demon conspiracy.
Twenty years previously a series of bizarre murders and a kidnapping was perpetrated by a fanatical group who called themselves The Blue Demon, named for the lost race of the Etruscans who were the forerunners of Roman society, and wiped out by the same. With the G8 conference being held at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, it seems like the group have come back to haunt the police and the government. A politician is snatched from his car, his young female driver murdered in cold blood. When the man is later found murdered the leader of the old group, Andrea Petrakis is suspected of resurrecting the terrorists for his own purposes.
Nic Costa and his team of detectives are eager to take on the case but are commanded to step down by their own police commissioner, Commissario Esposito, answering to the president, Dario Sordi and his own men, the Politic leader of the party, Ugo Campagnolo is involved as well, leaving Nic's team as little more than pawns on a chessboard. The team including Leo Falcone, Gianni Peroni, Teresa Lupo and a few junior officers are expected to stay well away from the center of Rome and the threat of terrorism. However, none of Nic's team intends to stand back when one of their own team is killed and their involvement sparks off some repercussions that reverberate outwards and catch the reader up in the murky politics of past and present day Rome.
I've mentioned the main ones, but it's worth recapping for those who haven't read a Nic Costa book. The author uses the Italian words for the police and the governing bodies so the reader gets used to words such as Questura (police Station), Centro Storico (city center) and Polizia di Strato (central police force).
The chief of police is Commissario Esporito, then there are the detectives, Peroni the eldest, Falcone, Nic's mentor, Nic himself, a junior detective but the one who solves most of the crimes. Then there is Teresa Lupo, the pathologist and Rosa Probakaran, another detective but of Indian parentage. It all sounds a bit confusing but you get used to the characters in the same way as a cold case team.
Hewson's characters work overtime in this book. Apart from Nic's team there are a host of minor characters and the ones that remain under the radar for a while as the story begins to unravel the strange politics of Rome. I found the politics were hard work and I had to refer back to former pages to check if I'd got it right. It isn't a political book though it does involve a lot of espionage. I found this quite fascinating as Hewson works with his research to keep things as true to life as possible. So we have plots and counter-plots, things called 'False flags' which are underground teams. Some stretch far back and no one in the book is quite sure which side they are on now. It makes an interesting plot and the reader needs to concentrate to keep up with the twists and turns.
'Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.'
The Shakespearean quote is apt when spoken by Dario Sordi, the prime minister who lacks any real clout. He knows a lot more than he can let on to Nic, whose father was a good friend of his. As the terrorists start to undermine the summit there is questions about loyalty that rock the foundations of Nic's beliefs. He will suffer his own crisis before the end comes with a finish that will stun and delight Hewson's fans.
I wouldn't want you to think this as a complicated and maybe boring book. Granted it takes concentration, but the plot wouldn't be half as good without the murkiness of political ambition. Hewson does a marvelous job of keeping his characters true to life so we get to know and love the detectives who are left knocking doors and plodding the beat when they want to be solving crimes. The character of Nic has grown so now he has his own fan following and very welcome it is too. This series has grown with each book until it rivals the big names of the past. I love the way the author brings in a part of Rome's history so you can't help but become interested in the legends and the nature of Roman and Italian history.
At heart though, this is a book about police procedures and the relationships between friends on the force. It doesn't seem possible that Hewson is British; born in Yorkshire, as his Italian is so fluent I'm sure he thinks in the language. There are the same problems, tensions and friendships among the police force as any British one. Add a fierce Blue demon and a hint of atrocities and it adds up to a thrilling read.
Highly recommended for it's thrill factor and the nature of the beast.
I bought my copy from Amazon for £4.20 and as it's a recent purchase I expect it's still much the same.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you find it interesting.
©Lisa Fuller. 2011.