A Visible Darkness
Magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis continues to grapple with his duties as a Prussian official in a land under the heel of Napoleon’s occupation army in the author’s ongoing series. The story is set along Prussia’s bleak Baltic coastline and, after a beginning involving a very surprising journey into public health concerns, it finds Stiffeniis obliged to leave his family to pursue finding the answer to the murder of young girls working in the lucrative amber trade. In doing so, the doggedly determined Prussian is required to deal with his arrogant French masters, chief among whom stand the enemy officer charged with procuring the valuable amber, the no-nonsense Colonel Les Halles. Two more incompatible personalities would be difficult to imagine.
Stiffeniis investigates in his usual careful manner and discovers corrupt French soldiers, scheming and mistrustful Prussian civilians, and a baffling series of murders that seem to defy this bright student of the great intellectual, Immanuel Kant. Gregorio (the pen name adopted by Michael J. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio) offers a finely crafted example of a sincere and patriotic man caught between the need to do his duty as a loyal civil servant while simultaneously attempting to keep his growing family safe from danger. His life is further complicated by the accusations of pro-French sympathies of his fellow citizens. While I did find myself confused at times as the plot unwound, I found that copying the central character’s determination to see it through paid off.
464 (US), 480 (UK)