The Bottom of Your Heart: Inferno for Commissario Ricciardi

Written by Antony Shugaar (trans.) Maurizio de Giovanni
Review by Alana White

Maurizio de Giovanni’s brooding Commissario Luigi Ricciardi is back in the seventh installment of this terrific mystery series set in 1930s Naples, Italy. By now devoted readers are on intimate terms with Ricciardi and the rich cast that populates these character-driven novels. First, there is Ricciardi – a melancholy bachelor in his thirties who sees and hears the last seconds in the lives of those who have suffered a violent death and, who, therefore, has resigned himself to inhabiting an insular, lonely world. Who does he let near? Two people only: his protective partner, Brigadier Raffaele Maione, and elderly Rosa, Ricciardi’s childhood governess, who lives with him still. Rosa, whose greatest wish has always been for him to find a nice girl, have a family, and settle down—is now gravely ill.

This time around, the mystery provides the backdrop for the author’s exploration into the complexities of love, trust, and betrayal. A renowned surgeon has fallen from his office window to his death. Was it suicide, or murder? This happens as a spectacular heat wave holds Naples in its grip, much like the inferno burning in Ricciardi and Brigadier Maione’s hearts. Ricciardi, because bespeckled, “plain” Erica, who embroiders at her window each night while Ricciardi stands in the shadows, admiring her from afar, is no longer there, and he does not know where she has gone. Maione, because he suspects his beloved wife of having an affair, a turn De Giovanni handles with sensitivity and a welcome touch of humor.

This is a poetic book of voices, laments and favorite, recurring characters, not the least of which is Naples itself: bawdy, sprawling, filled with the sounds of both the living and the dead clamoring to tell their stories. A fine translation from the Italian by Antony Shugaar, as always. Very highly recommended