cover image City of Silver

City of Silver

Annamaria Alfieri, . . Minotaur, $24.95 (317pp) ISBN 978-0-312-38386-2

Alfieri effortlessly recreates 17th-century Peru in her impressive debut. In 1650, concerned that counterfeit silver coins originating in Potosí, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, threaten to undermine the Spanish empire’s economic supremacy, Spain’s Felipe IV sends an emissary to Potosí to investigate. Meanwhile, the apparent suicide of Inez Rojas de la Morada, a high Potosí official’s daughter, offers an inquisitor the chance to declare Mother Maria Santa Hilda, the abbess of the convent where Inez died behind a locked door, a heretic, because the abbess violated religious law by permitting the deceased a church burial. In her effort to refute the charge by proving Inez was murdered, the abbess turns up several secrets within her own community, some of which may be connected to the counterfeiting plot. The author nicely balances action and deduction in a mystery that works as a political thriller as well as a historical whodunit. (Aug.)