Summary and book reviews of A Visible Darkness by Michael Gregorio

A Visible Darkness

A Mystery

By Michael Gregorio

A Visible Darkness
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2009,
    464 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2011,
    464 pages.

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Book Summary

Prussia has been overrun by Napoleon’s forces, and the Emperor’s troops have discovered a new source of funds there: enough amber to finance France’s wars. But their plans stall when the girls who collect the stones begin to disappear, only to be found gruesomely disfigured by an unknown killer. The French call upon Prussian investigator Hanno Stiffeniis, who must seek out the culprit knowing that his own success may doom his country's future.

Dark, intelligent, and vividly written, A Visible Darkness continues a masterful series of historical mysteries that portray a past torn between nationalism and humanism, superstition and science.

Chapter One

'Three of them can consume a dead horse in three days.'

Linnaeus might have been describing famished wolves or bears emerging from the forest in desperate search of winter nourishment, but savage Nature was not the subject of his dissertation.

Flies . . .

That's what Linnaeus was talking of.

And as I left the house that morning, I spotted another corpse in the garden.

The lawn and flower-beds had become a cemetery in recent weeks. I had buried a rat, three field-mice and a squirrel, intending to hide them from the eyes of Helena and the children. I knelt down to examine the creature more closely. Half hidden beneath one of the rose-bushes, a fair-sized stoat in what remained of its red-brown summer coat.

It had not been there the previous evening when I returned from my office in town. Yet overnight, it had been reduced to a skeleton, more or less. Four or five bluebottles were fighting over the last shreds of .flesh, darting in, teasing at the fat where ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Chief among the many gifts the husband and wife writing team of Michael G Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio bring to this atmospheric thriller is the ability to deliver the environment of Prussia's Baltic Coast in 1808 as a living, breathing, odiferous locale. Indeed, it is fair to say I spent a good deal of the time reading this novel with my nose wrinkled. But that is a good thing, since the effect not only enhances a sense of place but brings the summer of 1808 to the forefront to the extent that it becomes its own vibrant character.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

The third dose of Stiffeniis boasts the same strong evocation of history and, refreshingly, a looser and more confident narrative voice.

Booklist

Philosophy and chemistry run amok in this intelligent, compelling, but definitely difficult-to-read thriller.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. While some readers will anticipate the solution, the pitch-perfect evocation of the period and the compelling, gloomy atmosphere more than compensate for any lack of surprise.

Library Journal

Gregorio writes dense prose and detailed passages on living conditions of the time. But he excels in his depiction of an unusual sleuth who combines the wily psychology of a conquered people with the underlying philosophy of his former teacher, Emmanuel Kant.

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Baltic Amber & Prussia

Baltic Amber
As I read 'A Visible Darkness' I was fascinated by the act of collecting amber. Michael G Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio, who write under the pseudonym Michael Gregorio, were kind enough to answer my questions plus give a bonus teaser about the next Hanno Stiffeniis novel already in the works...

Q. There is, it seems, a rich history surrounding Baltic amber. How much did you know about the amber trade before embarking on your novel? How did you research this?

A. We were looking for an original setting for the third story in the series, and the Baltic coast seemed the ideal place, given that amber has been collected on the shore for many centuries. It was a dangerous job. You could be swept off your feet,...

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