When British academic Malise Gabriel falls to his death from a Rome apartment, detective Nic Costa rapidly comes to realise that there is much more to the accident than he first thought. It also becomes apparent that Malise’s family — mysterious and tragic daughter Mina, stoic wife Cecilia and troubled son Robert — may be keeping vital information hidden.
Nic becomes obsessed with the case, intrigued by Mina’s story which seems to be linked to the sixteenth-century real-life tragedy of a young Italian noblewoman, Beatrice Cenci.
As the investigation deepens, Rome’s dark and seedy side is uncovered, revealing a tangle of deceit, treachery and corruption. Costa realises that the key to the truth lies with the Gabriels. Why are they so unwilling to co-operate, and who, or what, is the reason for their silence?
Intricately plotted and gorgeously written, THE FALLEN ANGEL weaves a spell that will entrap you until the final page. David Hewson’s Rome is dark and tantalizing, seductive and dangerous, a place where present-day crimes ring with the echoes of history.
Tess Gerritsen, author of THE KILLING PLACE
Hewson is one of our finest crime writers. Absorbing, intelligent, and with a staggeringly vivid sense of place. No author has ever brought Rome so alive for me — nor made it seem so sinister.
Peter James, author of the bestselling Roy Grace series
As always, Hewson offers many glimpses of Rome. Costa sits “on a low semicircular stone bench midway across the Garibaldi Bridge, listening to the Tiber murmur beneath him like some ancient spirit grumbling about the noise and dirt of the city.” Moments later, he glimpses “the Castel Sant’Angelo illuminated like some squat stone drum left behind by the forgetful children of giants. Rome seemed magical, a fairy-tale city, on a drowsy evening such as this.” Lovers of Rome may savor the Costa novels just for images such as these.
But finally, this is a novel about evil. After I reviewed Philip Kerr’s new Bernie Gunther novel recently, a friend told me she wouldn’t read it because she didn’t want to deal with the horrors of World War II. And who can blame her? Kerr and Hewson, two excellent novelists, are both writing about evil but on vastly different scales: one cosmic, the other focused on a single family. Hewson is saying that the evil that destroyed Beatrice Cenci’s family can exist today. Certain details change, but the lust, the greed, the hatred and the basic darkness endure. It’s hard to see how the author could have made his dark tale more fascinating, entertaining and yet entirely serious than he has.
Bookreporter’s Joe Hartlaub
I am probably preaching to the choir here, but I cannot imagine anyone picking up a book authored by David Hewson and not falling in love with the subject matter within the first 50 pages or so. Hewson has made a profession of doing the amazing and making it look commonplace in novel after novel. THE FALLEN ANGEL, his latest and arguably best work, continues the practice while upping his own ante by a notch or three.
It is Hewson’s practice to take an ensemble cast — headed in interest, if not by rank, by Rome police detective Nic Costa — and place them against the backdrop of one of the world’s oldest cities as they solve one or more baffling murders. William Faulkner wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Hewson’s novels bring these famous words to life, and perhaps nowhere more so than in THE FALLEN ANGEL.
…even if you somehow put together at least part of what is ultimately revealed here, it is doubtful that you will figure out all of it, as Hewson drops revelations and bombshells — including a major one — right up through the final few pages. As tantalizing as the mystery is, however, the primary raison d’etre is Hewson’s unparalleled description of the ins and outs of Rome, as he guides you through the hidden nooks and crannies of the city through the eyes of his various and assorted characters.
At some point, Hewson should publish a travel guide to Rome and its surrounding environs (title it “Costa’s Roma“) as a source book to the magnificent scenery he has presented in THE FALLEN ANGEL and its predecessors. In the meantime, though, Hewson’s body of work provides a tempting map not only to an intriguing city but also to the darkest recesses of the human mind, past and present.
“Rome is full of stories. Full of beauty and barbarity, too. That’s what we are. A kind of magnifying glass for humanity. All the best parts, all the worst, out there in the light of day for everyone to see.”
So says police detective Nic Costa of the Rome Questura about his native city, the setting for Hewson’s masterful series of history-driven mysteries. Perhaps no other contemporary mystery author mixes both history and landscape so completely into the fabric of his stories as Hewson does. In past novels, Caravaggio (The Garden of Evil, 2008) and the Etruscans (City of Fear, 2010) have been among the aspects of Roman history that have fueled the investigations of Costa and his colleagues. Here it is the compelling story of Beatrice Cenci, a sixteenth-century Italian noblewoman who was convicted of killing her father and executed at the age of 22, that insinuates its way into the present-day murder of a once-prominent scholar, Malise Gabriel, in the same palazzo where Cenci’s father died.
As the parallels between past and present come into the light, and the haunted eyes of Gabriel’s daughter, Mina, suggest a reborn Beatrice, Costa struggles to separate myth from reality—and not to let media hysteria distort the truth. The historical material in this series—and, especially, in this installment—is unquestionably rich and fascinating, but it is finally Hewson’s ability to meld that ancient context into equally compelling, character-centered human dramas in the present day that makes his work so special. There is always, behind the murders, a psychological fabric as multifaceted as the historical reverberations are resonant. — Bill Ott
Family loyalties and betrayal ignite this ninth novel starring Detective Nic Costa of Rome’s Questura. David Hewson perfectly combines Rome’s 21st-century growing pains with the ancient history that permeates its people and culture. Costa stumbles upon a grizzly death scene — it looks like academic Malise Gabriel has fallen to his death — but the evidence screams murder and conspiracy. Hewson colors his crime tale with the true story of Beatrice Cenci, who in 1599 was put to death for killing her father. Her haunting story is mirrored in that of Malise’s daughter Mina. This international mystery is as good as it gets.
Hewson has a gift for weaving complex mysteries and thrills into a tight and captivating tale. Just as Michael Connelly reveals the dark underbelly of Los Angeles, Hewson immerses the reader into the city of Rome and shows a side that tourists don’t often see
Publishers Weekly starred review (third in series)
Near the start of Hewson’s accomplished ninth novel featuring Roman detective Nic Costa… an eccentric English scholar, Malise Gabriel, falls to his death from a balcony, and Nic finds the man’s lovely 17-year-old daughter, Mina, kneeling over his body on the street. The neighborhoods of Rome offer satisfying texture, as does Roman history—in particular, the dramatic story of another daughter, Beatrice Cenci, who was executed centuries earlier for killing the father who molested her… once secrets begin to be revealed, especially about the Gabriel family, there’s no stopping them. Readers will have a lot of fun peeling away the book’s many layers, right down to the final, closing twist.
Hewson presents an atmospheric portrait of a dark, corrupt Rome behind the jolly tourist façade, astutely mixing the historical and the present. This is the ninth in the Nic Costa series, and possibly the best.
New York Times
Mr. Hewson’s crime novel, the ninth in a series, is like a satisfying “Law & Order” episode set in modern-day Rome… the ending is the rich tiramisu we’ve waited for.
This latest novel in David Hewson’s Italian-set crime sequence is as vivid and engaging as ever. His Roman copper, the unshakeable Nic Costa, is the perfect guide to one of the most atmospherically rendered cities in current crime fiction. Reading The Fallen Angel might have you planning your own trip to Rome.
A variety of British and American novelists have set their books in Italy, notably Donna Leon and the late Michael Dibdin, whose Zen books have recently enjoyed TV adaptations. Hewson is ahead of the pack in this country-hopping band, mainly because his ambitions clearly stretch beyond the parameters of standard crime fiction.
Hewson is a master plotter — the twists in “The Fallen Angel” are stunning — and his characters so well-conceived and well-executed that they feel like old friends. And Rome? Like this superb novel, it’s at once sublime and sordid, and Hewson brings his considerable powers of description to bear on the Eternal City.
Ventura County Star
Hewson cleverly mixes the historical story with the present investigation in a way that will keep readers riveted to the gripping conclusion.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
David Hewson ends nearly every chapter in a cliffhanger, and his writing is good enough to glow in the dark. His characters are fresh and vivid, his story deftly constructed, and his portrait of modern Rome dazzles. Grade A