I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi

Written by Anne Milano Appel (trans.) Maurizio de Giovanni
Review by Lucille Cormier

Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi is the dapper commissario of police in Naples, Italy. It is March of 1931 when he is called to the Royal Theatre of San Carlo, where the country’s premier tenor, Arnaldo Vezzi, has been in his dressing room, very obviously dead at the hand of another. The pressure heats up to find the killer, as Ricciardi’s boss has ambitions to rise and the victim is a favorite of Il Duce.

But what neither of them knows is that Ricciardi has an edge over even the best of investigators. He can see and hear the newly dead. It is a burden he has carried since childhood, and ghostly visions follow him everywhere. Thus, when he enters Vezzi’s dressing room, he can see the bleeding maestro in a corner, hand outstretched as though pushing something away and can hear him singing softly, lines from the opera, Cavallerria Rusticana: “I will have vengeance, My rage shall know no bounds, And all my love, Shall end in hate.” From there, Ricciardi works at his usual obsessive pace to unmask the killer.

Having the main character commune with the dead rather stretches the imagination and can be a put-off. But, once the reader accepts this as a bit of poetic license, the story becomes thoroughly enjoyable. The characters are very human, the plot well-developed, the pace is great, the opera setting is fun, and the conclusion is intelligent and satisfying. All around, this is an excellent read. And, we can look forward to three more Commissario Ricciardi mysteries—as soon as they can be translated from the Italian.