Book One: A Season for the Dead
It’s a scorching summer in Rome. Sara Farnese sits in the Vatican Library. The streets are deserted. A man walks towards her. He is familiar. He is carrying a blood-stained bag…
Stefano’s left arm, the one holding the weapon, swept the table, swept everything on it, the precious volume of Apicius, her expensive notebook computer, down to the hard marble floor with a clatter. He said in a loud voice that was half crazy, half dead, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’
As the media gathers and Vatican officials close ranks, a young detective is sent to the forefront of the case. Nic Costa is the son of an infamous Italian Communist, a connoisseur of Caravaggio, and a cop who barely looks his 27 years of age. Thrust into the heart of a killing spree that will rattle his city down to its ancient bones, Nic begins to see a pattern in the killings that follow, murders that seem to mimic the grisly martyrdoms of the early Church.
Racked by personal anxiety over his dying father, Costa starts on the long journey to uncover the truth about these horrific crimes, whatever the cost, whatever the pain. From the inner quarters of the Vatican, desperate to hide a financial embarrassment, to the poorer, squalid bed-sits where the city’s immigrants try to eke out a living, Costa takes on any who crosses his path, however influential, however damaging the cost to his career.
Shunned as the son of a Communist, treated with suspicion by many of those around him, Costa relies on his own intelligence and integrity to find a way into the life of the mysterious Sara Farnese, and unlock the key to the case. But it’s a journey that comes with a terrible risk, and a cost he can never foresee.
What they said
‘…breathtaking… a dark delight, a story that one is compelled to read at one sitting while simultaneously wishing it will never end.’
Outsized, eccentric characters, a complex story and an abundance of historical detail make this engrossing book more than just another cookie-cutter, religious-nut serial killer thriller.
A Season for the Dead, like The Da Vinci Code, is a thriller that takes an unflattering look at the Catholic Church, but it is better written and more sophisticated than Dan Brown’s phenomenal bestseller… The books differ, too, in that Hewson, far more than Brown or most thriller writers, has a serious concern for character.
Hewson gives us lyrical moments (during a storm, “the city looked like the bowl of some fantastic fountain designed by a drunken Bernini”) and bizarre moments, as when the killer, in clerical robes, awaiting a victim, listens on headphones to Cannonball Adderley’s great recording of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” the point being that he has none. Amid revelations of police corruption, unexpected parentage, incest and betrayal, Hewson concocts a climactic scene in a little church called San Luigi dei Francesi…
Lit by candles, Caravaggio’s painting of the martyrdom of Saint Matthew gazes down from the wall (”the naked madman murdering the prone Matthew on the ground, sword raised, ready to deliver the final blow”). One crazed character “stumbled forward, colliding with terrified bodies in the darkness, yelling every obscenity he could think of, screaming his father’s name, begging the black maw of the nave to give up his body for vengeance.”
Let me tell you, this is great stuff. A Season for the Dead, if sometimes blissfully over the top, is intelligent entertainment… Praise be!
Dallas Morning News
Mr Hewson’s suspenseful, fascinating mystery has an appealing detective and many complex characters on both sides of the law. Twisting and turning through Italian history and art, Nic Costa’s first case gives the serial murder mystery a new look.
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tennessee
This enthralling story has it all: believable heroes, villains and even minor characters, exotic setting, history, religion, gruesome violence and steamy sex. Best of all, it’s so seamlessly put together that time flies as you flip pages to get to the end. Atmospheric and captivating, Hewson’s novel has all the elements needed for the complete thriller-reading experience. This is one not to miss.
Rocky Mountain News
There will be inevitable comparisons between this novel and The Da Vinci Code because of the Italian setting, the Vatican connection and the Caravaggio association. But A Season for the Deaddoes not expose artistic or religious frauds nor attempt to rewrite history. This is, instead, a complicated and engrossing mystery so compelling that it begs for a one-night reading.
The good news is that this is only the first novel to star Nic Costa. Hewson said in a recent interview that he created Costa as “a good guy, an unfinished, slightly naive, innocent person … a character who was in transition.” In a proposed six-book series, he will follow the policeman and his cohorts through other adventures as they attempt not only to solve crimes but deal honestly with a society that is not always honest itself.”Most of my books aren’t whodunits; they’re more whydunits,” Hewson explained. And that is just what makes them so fascinating.
Star Tribune, Minneapolis
This atmospheric thriller begins in the Vatican library and winds around the ancient streets and churches of Rome. Detective Nic Costa is working on a series of gruesome murders that mimics the martyrdom of early Christian saints – and seems to revolve around the mysterious Sara Farnese, a professor of Early Christian history. Costa finds himself drawn to her cool beauty as well. Hewson’s absorbing series debut features a memorable cast of fully human characters, imagines the distorted mind of a serial killer and takes a chilling glimpse into the Vatican’s less-than-godly dealings with the secular world.
It’s a suspenseful thriller, cleverly plotted with great characters and a real look at the back streets of Rome and the darker streets of the Vatican.
… a delicious and compelling view of the public art of Rome and the private intrigue of the Vatican. Recommended for most popular fiction collections; blooming Costa fans will be pleased to know that Hewson plans a series of novels featuring the detective.
A fast-paced tour of Rome with a nice combo of serial killer thriller and Vatican conspiracy novel.
What makes Hewson worth reading is not only the well-realized setting, but also, to Americans, the exotic European characters, especially the two Italian cops. The action is well paced, the plot nicely twisted, the characters often chameleon-like, and the setting is definitely fascinating for many readers. Overall, this is a well written mystery with some real surprises at the end.
David Hewson… has written mysteries set abroad before now, especially Spain, and is one of several crime writers opting for an Italian setting these days. On this form, Hewson is certainly the leader of the pack.
The first in a promising Italian crime series set in Rome … Hewson’s way with the Roman milieu is as cutting edge as his adroit narrative.
An oddball detective mistrusted by his bosses, a beautiful woman, the elegant backdrop of Rome and sinister goings-on in the Vatican all add up to a new spin on the serial killer tale…All of this works not simply because of the frenetic plot but because Hewson has two beguiling, fascinating characters to hold our interest… (he) has a lightness of touch, an eye for the macabre and an understanding that you can’t beat the old fatal attraction between an all-too-human cop and a beautiful woman.