The Bishop’s Bedroom

Written by Piero Chiara
Review by Bryan Dumas

Chiara’s suspenseful novel opens with a wealthy and unnamed narrator stepping of his sailboat in 1946 Italy and meeting Temistocle Mario Orimbelli. From that moment, our narrator’s life will not be the same. Orimbelli takes him to his villa overlooking the lake and introduces him to Cleofe, Orimbelli’s rigid and cold wife, and Matilde, the wife of Cleofe’s assumed dead brother. The narrator soon falls for Matilde. Orimbelli convinces the 30-something narrator to take him with him on his adventures on the lake.

While cruising together, Orimbelli shows his lascivious side, seducing the women the narrator wants to be involved with—including a married woman the narrator is in a relationship with from a nearby village—and eventually confiding to the narrator that he has illicit feelings for his sister-in-law, whom the narrator also hoped to begin a romantic relationship with. Our narrator begins to become distrustful of Oribelli, and even follows him around the various towns. Then, a mysterious death unravels everything and suspicion rules the waters.

The Bishop’s Bedroom is a compact novel that is rich in atmosphere. Chiara explores themes of greed, lust, and power and wraps them in a little murder mystery. The settings are engrossing, from the villages to the house to the islands of Lake Maggiore, Italy. Though the murder mystery aspect takes time to begin—odd in this brief novel—it is well worth the patience.