Monday, August 04, 2008

Pg. 99: David Hewson's "The Garden of Evil"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: David Hewson's The Garden of Evil.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a deserted artist’s studio in the heart of Rome, detectives stumble upon a scene of shocking brutality: two bodies, freshly killed. Looming over them is a painting that bears all the hallmarks of a Caravaggio: a brilliantly colored canvas depicting a violent tableau of beauty and depravity.... In David Hewson’s bold new novel of suspense, this grisly discovery sends Detective Nic Costa on a desperate chase through the streets of his city. The consequences are devastating. And for Nic, the case has only just begun.

At the crime scene, detectives find a treasure trove of evidence—from fresh blood to lurid photos of dead prostitutes. For Costa, finding the killer who escaped him is intensely personal. But his prime suspect arrogantly hides in plain sight behind a fortress of money, power, and the law.

Teaming with an art expert, Costa follows clues hidden in the mysterious Caravaggio canvas. As he moves through a maze of history, he begins to make stunning connections to the present case. And each discovery brings him closer and closer to a secret buried in a priceless work of art, a conspiracy dating back four hundred years—and men who will stop at nothing to protect their own private garden of evil.

From modern forensics to the realm of the Medicis, from the force of faith to the corruption of power, The Garden of Evil is a novel steeped in Roman history—and an unforgettable experience in richly atmospheric, modern-day suspense.
Among the praise for The Garden of Evil:
“A thought-provoking blend of art history and mystery, The Garden of Evil is … a treat for readers who like their entertainment literate.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“At the outset of this dark jewel of a thriller, Hewson’s sixth to feature Roman detective Nic Costa (after The Seventh Sacrament), Costa and his team are just starting to process a crime scene in an artist’s shabby studio, where two corpses lie sprawled before a painting of a rapturous female nude redolent of Caravaggio, when they flush out a hooded gunman. The gunman escapes in the ensuing chase… While Costa is taken off the case, his rule-bending boss finds a way for him to help on the sly, assisting the unusual art expert—young Sister Agata Graziano—called in to investigate whether the canvas could really be a Caravaggio and what light it might shed on the murders. You don’t have to be much of a sleuth to foresee danger for Sister Agata, but that’s about the only predictable element in a plot otherwise as serpentine—and suspense filled—as the ancient Roman byways through which Costa stalks his prey.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Hewson’s latest Nic Costa thriller opens with a shocker that will have series fans reeling, just as it does the principal players: Rome police detectives Costa and Gianni Peroni and their boss, the brooding Leo Falcone. What follows is another gritty, compelling mix of mean streets and ancient history, as the detectives attempt to unravel an appalling series of murders that seems to connect to an unknown Caravaggio painting depicting a tableau of startling depravity.

With the help of lay sister and Caravaggio expert Agata Graziano, the detectives quickly determine that a group of wealthy Roman aristocrats, impervious to the law, are re-creating the violent, orgiastic lifestyle enjoyed centuries earlier by Caravaggio and his circle, who called themselves the “Ekstasists”—and if a few prostitutes die in support of the hedonists’ revels, what of it? As usual, Hewson mixes art history and contemporary crime perfectly, but this time he digs deeper, finding connections between art and life that go to the very heart of humanity’s conflicted cravings for the sensual and the spiritual. And emerging from the complex, masterful plot, its sinews intertwined between past and present, is the towering, tragic figure of Caravaggio, whose still-unsolved murder in Rome in 1606 holds the key to bringing the modern-day Ekstasists to justice.

Arturo Pérez-Reverte has long set the gold standard for mixing history, mystery, and modern life into literary stews of mouthwatering flavor and incredible subtlety, but it’s time to agree that Hewson now shares that position—and is on the verge of claiming it outright.”
Booklist (starred review)
Read an excerpt from The Garden of Evil, and learn more about the author and his work at David Hewson's website.

See the Page 69 Test for the previous Nic Costa novel, The Seventh Sacrament.

The Page 99 Test: The Garden of Evil.

--Marshal Zeringue