Everyone In Their Place, subtitled The Summer Of Commissario Ricciardi, is the third volume in author Maurizio De Giovanni’s historical series, following on from I Will Have Vengeance [The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi] and Blood Curse [The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi].
It is August 23, 1931.
Year Nine. Of the New Era. The era of black ribbons on hats and high black boots, the era of full page newspaper photographs of men in shirtsleeves, guiding a plow. The era of enthusiasm and optimism. The era of law and order and clean cities, by government decree.
But Commissario Ricciardi, the man cursed by seeing and hearing the final seconds of life of those who meet a violent death, still has to investigate the brutal crimes that occur despite government decree. Ricciardi, and his trusty subordinate Brigadier Maione, are instructed to investigate the brutal shooting of the beautiful Duchess di Camparino. The Duchess has a much older invalid husband and a stepson Ettore, who spends his time looking after plants and has his own secrets. The old dying Duke is looked after by a housekeeper, Concettta, who supervises the servants, the Sciarras, man and wife, who live in the palazzo with their young children. When Ricciardi discovers that the Duchess had a vibrant nature, and at least one infatuated lover the investigation becomes even more complex, with the Commissario having to tread very carefully to avoid alienating the local power hierarchy.
Everyone In Their Place is a brilliant example of noir that drifts pleasingly into black comedy at times. A delicious blend of murder, love affairs, commentary on working in a totalitarian state with terrible poverty existing alongside ostentatious wealth; and with that green-eyed monster jealousy playing a large part, this is the best book of the trilogy so far.
The relationship that has failed to reach even a sub-platonic level between the “very secret lovers” Ricciardi and Enrica Columbo takes a difficult turn as Enrica’s mother encourages her to meet the unprepossessing Sebastiano, who lives off his wealthy parents. Ricciardi sees Enrica with Sebastiano, and Enrica sees Ricciardi with the beautiful elegant Livia, the widow of opera singer Arnaldo Vezzi, who was murdered in an earlier book. Livia has come back to Naples to seduce the shy Commissario. Enrica and Ricciardi are both heartbroken.
Meanwhile Raffaele Maione, all 265lbs of him, is on a strict diet. His wife Lucia has been flirting with Ciruzzo, a fruit vendor and Maione has the idea that the thinner man might take his beloved from him. All these misunderstandings, with interventions from the sycophantic and useless Deputy Chief of Police Angelo Garzo, and the boldly anti-Fascist Doctor Modo go along way to create a story that at times resembles Italian comic opera, but it is never far from the harsh brutal reality of life, violence and murder in Mussolini’s Italy.
A superb beautifully written crime thriller with a cast of memorable characters, it should definitely be a strong contender for the International Dagger and the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger.