Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Michael Pearce, Our Man In Naples

Michael Pearce, Our Man In Naples
Soho Press, 2009
ISBN 978-1-56947-607-9
Also available as an ebook.

The 6th of 7 (to date) books featuring Sandor Seymour.  Seymour is an English-born child of an immigrant Polish family with a talent for languages, who has wound up working for the Special Branch.  And he keeps getting loaned to the Foreign Office when something goes wrong overseas (so far, in Trieste, Athens, Istanbul, Tangiers, Barcelona, Naples, and Malta). 

In Naples, a minor member of the British consular staff, who has developed a passion for bicycle racing, is stabbed in a public square.  Seymour is sent (as a "tourist," with his fiance, a Lybian woman named Chantale) to find out who killed him--and why.  It's 1913, and Italy is attempting to redeem its failures to achieve colonies in Africa by going to war with Ethiopia.  A Napoli family is trying to win a pension for their son's Arab wife (Jalila).  (And it's much more complicated than that.)  Along the way, we learn a lot about daily life in early 20th century Naples, about the operation of the daily lotteries, and about the Camorra (the Neopolitan version of organized crime).  And about bicycle racing.

What matters, and what doesn't, are issues at the heart of the book, and Pearce does a good job of keeping us off-balance.  In fact, much of the books does not seem at all like an investigation, until the end, when we realize that all those casual conversations were moving us closer and closer to knowing both what the real questions are, and how to answer them.  I have not yet read Our Man In Malta, but this is the best of the bunch so far.

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