cover image Ritual of Fire

Ritual of Fire

D.V. Bishop. Macmillan UK, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5290-9648-4

Bishop returns to the rich vein of Renaissance Italian history for this limp third mystery featuring soldier-turned-investigator Cesare Aldo and his constable, Carlo Strocchi (following 2020’s The Darkest Sin). The story begins in May 1538, a few months after the events of the prior entry, with Aldo, an officer of Florence’s main criminal court, assigned to the Tuscan countryside. Meanwhile, Strocchi is called to the city’s Piazza della Signoria in the dead of night, where he is assailed by the scent of burning flesh. A man has been hung on makeshift gallows, taken down, tied to a cart, and set ablaze; 40 years earlier, the charismatic Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola met the same fate in the same piazza. During Strocchi’s investigation, another man is killed, and Aldo eventually leaves his post to help get to the bottom of both murders, which seem to have religious undertones. Pedestrian prose (“Those craving power believed the end always justified whatever actions were necessary for their desired outcome”) and a plodding pace mostly sink this entry. Here’s hoping the series regains momentum the next time out. [em]Agent: Jenny Brown, Jenny Brown Assoc. (Aug.) [/em]