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Death of a Serpent by Susan Russo Anderson (A Serafina Florio Mystery)

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2013 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

I have just finished reading this fascinating historic mystery. It’s set in 1860’s Sicily, a (more or less) new time and place for me. Other than from my studies of history, I haven’t read anything from this era.

What I really like about this book, apart from the very interesting plot, is that I like most of the main characters. Lately, I’ve been disappointed in so many books, because even the ‘good guys’ are such extremely unsympathetic characters. It’s hard to really get into the plot of a book, if you hate everyone in it. With this book I didn’t have that problem.

I was a little surprised to find that most of the plot takes place in a brothel! But strangely enough you ended up sympathizing with many of the people there, and not just pitying the ‘girls’.

The ‘sleuth’ is a recently widowed midwife with seven children (one of them has run away from home and another has gone off to university). The madam of the brothel is Serafina’s best friend, and that’s why she agrees to look into the gruesome murders taking place on the very doorstep of the brothel. Someone seems to have it in for Rosa, the madam, or is there another motive behind the killings?

One of the few things that bothered me about this well-written book is the fact that almost no one questions Serafina when she suddenly becomes a private investigator. Only two of her sons even comment on the fact!

Another thing that I’ve been wondering about is that everything is so modern. Serafina has studied at the university. She and her friend and some of the children go on idyllic little outings by train. Everyone seems very up to date about things happening in America, though in all fairness many people are emigrating and many others probably have relatives living there who keep in touch regularly. Maybe that part isn’t too surprising. But really, even if the setting is a bit too ‘modern’ I don’t care. This was such a wonderful reading experience I won’t question all the details. The author must have done her research, quite probably she knows more about the time and place than I do anyway.

I can definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes historic mysteries.

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