BookBrowse Reviews The Sacred Cut by David Hewson

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The Sacred Cut

A Nic Costa Mystery

by David Hewson

The Sacred Cut by David Hewson
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2006, 512 pages

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An intriguing police procedural set in modern-day Rome

From the book jacket: The snow is falling in Rome - in the heart of the city, under the Pantheon's great dome, a woman's body lies on the marble floor, carefully positioned with a gruesome carving on her back....this horrific murder hurtles Rome's police force into a collision with U.S. agents – and a secret that has festered for fifteen years, now unraveling in the world's most enigmatic city.

When Detective Nic Costa arrives at the scene, he is unprepared for what he finds, or for the ambush that leaves his only witness vanished into the night. The dead woman was American. Within hours, U.S. agents descend with a take-no-prisoners style and a shocking story to tell: the killer has struck before, in monuments all over the world, leaving the same cryptic message carved onto the bodies of the victims.

But one agent, beautiful, blond Emily Deacon, has yet another story to tell Nic – about a stunning act of deception that may lead back to the U.S. government, and her own chilling, personal connection to the killer. From its haunting opening to its nerve-shattering climax, The Sacred Cut defies all our expectations, proving once again the unique and compelling genius of David Hewson.

Comment: Nic Costa is a protagonist for the modern day - just like Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti, Costa is a thoughtful man of many facets who struggles to do the right thing.  Described by some as a Roman Inspector Morse, the series is gaining quite a reputation in Hewson's native England, and is overdue to breakout in the USA.  Hewson feels that most crime fiction falls into two categories, 'bloodless-crime' where murder is a catalyst to an intellectual puzzle; and 'tough guy crime', which assumes that the world is neatly divided between good and and bad. Neither appeal to him because neither represent the world we live in.  Hewson's characters inhabit a real world where virtually every issue is measured, not in black and white, but in shades of gray, and the issue in question is how to respond to these challenges as an individual. 

I don't usually expect a detective mystery to reshape how I think about things but just one throw-away comment from Costa in the opening pages has caused me to question that old adage 'a picture's worth a thousand words'. "You know the great thing about pictures?  They only show what's on the surface. The rest you make up. You write your own story. You imagine your own beginning and your own ending. Pictures are fiction pretending to be truth."

If you're interested in thoughtful crime fiction, take a moment to browse the excerpt at BookBrowse - and if you like the look of it, don't forget to add it to your 'Reading List'!.

"Hewson's literate prose, bolstered by local color and historical tidbits, makes for top-flight entertainment." - Kirkus Reviews

"This is the third novel in this Roman cop series, and I'm hooked. I love the way Hewson combines 4,000 years of Roman history with 21st-century police plots. I love the Ed McBain style, with recurring characters who play different roles in each book. Most of all, I love the atmosphere and the beautifully crafted plots." - The Globe and Mail, Toronto.

This review was originally published in March 2006, and has been updated for the August 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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