Written by Alfredo Colitto

Review written by Helen Bettinson

After a career in TV production Helen Bettinson recently ditched a long commute around the M25 in order to concentrate on reading, and perhaps even writing, crime fiction.

RRP: £12.99
Released: 5th May 2011
Pbk Original

Bologna, May 1311.  University doctor, Mondino de Liuzzi, is confronted with the horribly disfigured corpse of a young Templar. Knowing that the search for his killer could jeopardise his own career, his family’s wellbeing, even his life, nonetheless the celebrated doctor is compelled to risk everything. For the victim is not only part of a monastic order that has fallen foul of the Inquisition, but the dead man’s heart has been transformed into solid iron.  Is this the result of alchemy? Or, as Inquisitor Uberto da Rimini believes, of devil worship? Either way, Mondino knows that the murderer must be caught, and the secret of the iron heart laid bare.

Author Alfredo Colitto is not well known outside Italy, but this looks set to change with the publication of Inquisition, the first in a trilogy featuring the sympathetic and thoughtful Mondino.  A man of science and intelligence, the university anatomist is – like Mathew Shardlake - the perfect guide to a complex, historical world in political and religious turmoil.  But unlike CJ Sansom’s fictional Tudor lawyer, Colitto’s hero really did exist, a prominent Bolognese medic whose enduring fame rests on his groundbreaking work on anatomy and human dissection.

Colitto, too, has done his spadework.  The sounds, smells and textures of 14th century Bologna enrich every scene, and the wonderful supporting cast– including student Gerardo, the brothel-keeping crone, Mondino’s dying father, the sexy Arab sorceress, the crippled beggar boy, Uberto’s henchman, the rapacious money-lender and his disfigured foster daughter – adds colour and authenticity to a plot that never falters.

Like the best historical thrillers, Inquisition addresses big questions – in this case the clash between rational science and religious fervour – without patronising the reader.  You don’t need to be scholar of medieval Italy to fear the Inquisitor’s Machiavellian manoeuvrings, nor to appreciate the power that love and lust have over mortal men, be they university doctors or naïve young Templar monks.  

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