Review: A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor


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Bitter Lemon Press, 2014. Format: Kindle Edition (588 KB) ISBN: 978-1-908524-31-7 ASIN: B00G1SDKOI Print Length: 246 pages. 

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A Dark Song of Blood takes place in Rome during the period between the 8th of January and the 4th of June, 1944. When the story begins Inspector Sandro Guidi of the Italian police is summoned unexpectedly to the German command at Hotel Flora, where he meets an old acquaintance, Major Bora (see Liar Moon). What could General Westphal’s aide-de-camp want from him? Soon we find out that Guidi is investigating the death of a German embassy secretary. Magda Reiner, a young German Embassy employee, ‘accidentally’ fell to her death from a fourth-story window. The head of the Italian police and Guidi’s boss, chief superintendent Peter Caruso, wants to be kept regularly apprised of developments concerning the case. His German counter part will be General Maelzer to whom Guidi should report through General Westphal’s office and specifically … Guidi didn’t need to know any further. Caruso has already made up his mind and has no doubt that the guilty party is Merlo, the Secretary General of the National Confederation of Fascist Union. That’s why he needs a newcomer to investigate. Merlo doesn’t know him and Guidi doesn’t need to be as discreet as others, during his investigation.

In a nutshell, A Dark Song of Blood recounts several homicide investigations, mixing various fictional characters with some other real historical characters, against the background of the last five month of the German occupation of the city of Rome. For a brief introduction to the Italian campaign see: Allied advance to Rome at Wikipedia.

Despite being the third book in the Martin Bora series of crime mysteries by Ben Pastor, A Dark Song of Blood is the first book I have read. I would recommend to start the series from the very beginning, although I have not found it to be essential to fully understand the story. Having said that I quite enjoyed the reading of this historical thriller. Maybe, as pointed out by Rob Kitchin, at times the police investigation almost disappears entirely, leaving the plot a little rudderless. But in my view, this is a minor quibble. Overall I have found the story very convincing and the portrait of that period has seemed to me highly credible. The end result a quite satisfactory reading experience in my opinion.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Ben Pastor is the ‘nom de plume’ of the Italian-American writer Maria Verbena Volpi. Born in Italy, she lived for thirty years in the United States, working as a university professor in Vermont, before returning to her home country. A Dark Song of Blood is the third in the Martin Bora series and follows on from the success of Lumen and Liar Moon, also published by Bitter Lemon Press. The complete Martin Bora series (Source: Wikipedia.it) is as follows: (The last date refers to the year in which the plot unfolds)

  • Lumen, (Lumen, 1999), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2001; Sellerio ed., 2012, traduzione di Paola Bonini – Krakow, Poland. Autumn 1939
  • Luna bugiarda, (Liar Moon, 2001), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2002; Sellerio ed., 2013, traduzione di Marilia Piccone – Italy, Venetia Region, 1943
  • Kaputt Mundi, (A Dark Song of Blood, 2002), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2003,traduzione di Paola Bonini – Rome, 1944
  • La canzone del cavaliere, (The Horseman’s song, 2003), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2004, traduzione di Paola Bonini – Spain, summer 1937
  • Il morto in piazza, (The Dead in The Square, 2005), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2005, traduzione di Judy Faellini – Italy, June, 1944
  • La Morte, il Diavolo e Martin Bora, (Odd Pages, 2008), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2008, traduzione di Judy Faellini e Paola Bonini – Ukraine, 1941
  • La Venere di Salò, (The Venus of Salò, 2005), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2006, traduzione di Judy Faellini – Salò, 1944
  • Il Signore delle cento ossa, (Master of One Hundred Bones, 2010), Sellerio ed., 2011, traduzione di Paola Bonini – Germany, spring 1939.
  • Il cielo di stagno, (Tin Sky, 2013), Sellerio ed., 2013, traduzione di Luigi Sanvito – Ucrania, 1943
  • La strada per Itaca, (The Road to Ithaca, 2014), Sellerio ed., 2014, traduzione di Luigi Sanvito – Moscow, spring of 1941

A Dark Song of Blood has been reviewed at Crime Scraps Review (Norman) Crime Time (Giles Morgan), Crime Review (Chris Roberts), The View from the Blue House (Rob),   

Bitter Lemon Press

Ben Pastor Website

Kaputt Mundi de Ben Pastor

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Kaputt Mundi transcurre en Roma durante el periodo comprendido entre el 8 de enero y el 4 de junio de 1944. Cuando la historia comienza el inspector Sandro Guidi de la policía italiana es convocado inesperadamente por el mando alemán al hotel Flora, donde se encuentra con un viejo conocido, el Mayor Bora (ver Luna mentirosa). ¿Qué podría querer de él el ayudante de campo del general Westphal? Pronto descubrimos que Guidi está investigando la muerte de una secretaria de la embajada alemana. Magda Reiner una joven empleada de la Embajada Alemana que “accidentalmente” encontró la muerte al caer desde una ventana de un cuarto piso. El jefe de la policía italiana y jefe de Guidi, el superintendente Peter Caruso, quiere que se le mantenga informado regularmente de la evolución del caso. Su homólogo alemán será el general Maelzer a quien Guidi debe informar a través de la oficina del general Westphal y específicamente … Guidi no necesita saber más. Caruso ya ha tomado una decisión y no tiene la menor duda de que el culpable es Merlo, el Secretario General de la Confederación Nacional de la Union Fascista. Es por eso que necesita a un recién llegado para investigar. Merlo no lo conoce y Guidi no tiene por qué ser tan discreto como otros, durante su investigación.

En pocas palabras, Kaputt Mundi relata varias investigaciones de homicidios, mezclando diferentes personajes de ficción con algunos otros personajes históricos reales, en el contexto de los últimos cinco meses de la ocupación alemana de la ciudad de Roma. Para una breve introducción ver La Campaña de Italia en Wikipedia.

A pesar de ser el tercer libro de la serie de misterio protagonizada por Martin Bora de Ben Pastor, Kaputt Mundi es el primer libro que he leído. Yo recomendaría empezar la serie desde el principio, aunque no he encontrado que sea esencial para entender completamente la historia. Habiendo dicho eso, disfruté bastante la lectura de este thriller histórico. Tal vez, como ha señalado Rob Kitchin, a veces la investigación policial casi desaparece por completo, dejando la trama un poco a la deriva. Pero en mi opinión, este es un detalle sin importancia. En general, he encontrado el relato muy convincente y el retrato de ese período me ha parecido de gran credibilidad. El resultado final es una experiencia de lectura bastante satisfactoria en mi opinión.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Ben Pastor es el seudónimo de la escritora italoamericana Maria Verbena Volpi. Nacida en Italia, vivió durante treinta años en los Estados Unidos, donde trabajó como profesora universitaria en Vermont, antes de regresar a su país de origen. Kaputt Mundi es el tercero de la serie protagonizada por Martin Bora y la continuación del éxito de Lumen y Luna mentirosa, también publicados por Bitter Lemon Press. La serie completa de Martin Bora (Fuente: Wikipedia.it) es como sigue: (La última fecha se refiere al año en que se desarrolla la trama)

  • Lumen, (Lumen, 1999), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2001; Sellerio ed., 2012, traduzione di Paola Bonini. Edición española Lumen (Alianza Editorial, 2014). Krakow, Polonia. Otoño 1939.
  • Luna bugiarda, (Liar Moon, 2001), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2002; Sellerio ed., 2013, traduzione di Marilia Piccone. Edición española  Luna mentirosa (Salamandra, 2007).  Italia, Región del Véneto, 1943.
  • Kaputt Mundi, (A Dark Song of Blood, 2002), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2003,traduzione di Paola Bonini. Edición española  Kaputt Mundi (Salamandra, 2006). Roma, 1944.
  • La canzone del cavaliere, (The Horseman’s song, 2003), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2004, traduzione di Paola Bonini. España, verano 1937
  • Il morto in piazza, (The Dead in The Square, 2005), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2005, traduzione di Judy Faellini. Italia, Junio, 1944
  • La Morte, il Diavolo e Martin Bora, (Odd Pages, 2008), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2008, traduzione di Judy Faellini e Paola Bonini. Ucrania , 1941
  • La Venere di Salò, (The Venus of Salò, 2005), Hobby & Work Publishing, 2006, traduzione di Judy Faellini. Salò, 1944
  • Il Signore delle cento ossa, (Master of One Hundred Bones, 2010), Sellerio ed., 2011, traduzione di Paola Bonini. Alemania, primavera 1939.
  • Il cielo di stagno, (Tin Sky, 2013), Sellerio ed., 2013, traduzione di Luigi Sanvito, Edición española  Cielo de plomo (Alianza Editorial, 2014). Ucrania, 1943.
  • La strada per Itaca, (The Road to Ithaca, 2014), Sellerio ed., 2014, traduzione di Luigi Sanvito. Moscú, verano de 1941.

Kaputt Mundi 

Ben Pastor gana el Premio Internacional de Novela Histórica Ciudad de Zaragoza 2008

3 thoughts on “Review: A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor

  1. I’ve been hearing good things about this series, and have ordered Lumen, the first, from the library. Many thanks for the intriguing writeup of this one!

  2. Pingback: New to me authors January to March 2015 | The Game's Afoot

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