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.
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