For my wild card entry, to complete the 2010 Global Reading Challenge hosted by Dorte at DJ Krimiblog, I have chosen City of Silver by Annamaria Alfieri, an historical mystery book set in 1650 in the wealthy Peruvian (now Bolivian) city of Potosi. City of Silver was sent to me by Peter Rozovsky at Detectives Beyond Borders. You can find the whole story HERE.
I could not find anyone better than the author herself to summarize this book: ‘City of Silver is a locked-room mystery that takes place in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru in 1650 in the city of Potosí, then the largest city in the Western Hemisphere—the same size as London at the time and the richest city in the world. As the story begins, Potosí is on the brink of disaster because the King of Spain has discovered that coins minted there are not pure silver; he sends a Visitador General to punish the counterfeiters. Meanwhile the daughter of the city’s most powerful man dies mysteriously in a convent. By burying the girl, whom many think a suicide, in sacred ground, the Abbess Mother Maria Santa Hilda sets off a chain of events that connect her convent to the counterfeiting plot and put her in peril of the Inquisition. With the clock ticking on the Abbess’s life and the city’s future, she and her supporters must solve both mysteries before she perishes and the city falls into financial ruin.’
It can be added that although the characters and the plot of this story are fictitious, the background history and the city of Potosi is real. In 1987, UNESCO declared Potosí a Patrimonio de la Humanidad (Patrimony of Humanity). Its glorious architectural masterpieces, which are the scenes of this novel, still exist and can be visited in one of the highest cities in the world, at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters (more than 13,000 feet), in what is now Bolivia.
My expectations on this book were set too high; I love history, and the time and the place in which the plot unfolds. Maybe that explains why I was very disappointed at the end and I was about to leave the book unfinished. The narrative is not credible and the fictitious plot is, sometimes, close to a soap opera. Some characters are not well drawn and they look completely false to me. I might be wrong since there are quite some positive reviews that you can see below and maybe I’m the only dissenting voice, but frankly I did not like this book. Anyway I was glad to have read it since it gave me the opportunity to increase my knowledge on the events that took place in Potosí during 1650 and that alone for my taste is just fascinating. Pity that the fictitious events and characters were so poorly developed. I’ve been in Peru (Cuzco) and in Bolivia (La Paz) but I’ve been left willing to visit Potosí one day.
Annamaria Alfieri is the pen name used by author Patricia King for her mystery novel City of Silver. Patricia King lives in New York City and this is her first novel. See also Annamaria Alfieri guest author at Murder is Everywhere.
City of Silver has been reviewed at The Washington Post, Historical Novels, The Mystery Gazette, Amazon.com Customer Reviews, Historical Novel Society, Clerical Detectives, Off the Shelf, to name but a few.