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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Immersion in Rome: Sari Gilbert's new mystery "Deadline Rome: The Vatican Kylix"


If you want to immerse yourself in Rome but can't get there yet, Sari Gilbert's 2021 mystery novel, "Deadline Rome: The Vatican Kylix" is a perfect way to do it. 

Set mostly in Trastevere, Gilbert's novel features a British archeologist turned journalist and part-time detective, Clare Phillips, whose knowledge of Rome's news and police systems is deep and fascinating.

The story opens with a kidnaped young man, who has a head wound, and follows shortly with Clare and her archeological buddy discovering an ear in an Etruscan tomb, where they are picnicking near Tuscania. We've been in some of those tombs - and one can picnic in them - many are simply open. And Tuscania is a gorgeous town in northern Lazio. Hopefully that will  prick your appetite for this delightful book.

Etruscan tomb in Cerveteri

You can follow Gilbert's attractive protagonist as she scooters around Rome and its environs, interviewing everyone from bishops to tombaroli (grave thieves - those who plunder ancient graves for valuable artifacts). For those who watched the British TV series, "Fleabag," you'll be pleased to note there's even a hot priest in the mix.

Enjoying Tuscania







Gilbert's novel intertwines several historically important stories: the questionable provenance of ancient relics, in this case a signed Greek wine cup or the Kylix; corruption in the Italian banking system; and the anni di piombo, or "years of lead," in which kidnaping for political and monetary gain was a plague in the country - the novel is set in 1980. The author, a retired American journalist with years of experience in Rome, adroitly uses these historical themes to remind the reader of critical facets of contemporary Italian history. 


The proposed unveiling of the Kylix reminded us of a big show of recovered artifacts in the Carabinieri headquarters in Rome. Clare visits some of the same places we did, and interviews officials we - mostly unsuccessfully - tried to interview. - photo right; our post here.

On a more playful level, Clare traipses around Rome (as noted, by scooter, but also on foot, and by car), taking the reader to specific streets and locales that evoke the Rome of Romans, not of tourists. Her favorite barristas, coffee bars themselves, small restaurants, pasta, all are a delight to anyone who loves Rome. And if you don't know a specific street, you can get out your Google Map (or Tuttocitta') and follow along. She also slings the Italian slang, some of which was new to us, but some of which we were pleased to see on the page, including "conosco il mio pollo" - "I know my own chicken" - i.e. I know of what I speak; let me do it.

One complaint might be that Clare is a little too attractive, especially to the Italian men; though I suppose Gilbert might say, that's her Italian experience. One gets a little weary of Clare constantly being noted for her good looks, and those good looks opening doors for her. And a mystery fan with whom I spoke thought there were a few too many characters and that it was difficult to keep track of them all. That wasn't my experience. In any event, these are small criticisms in a wonderfully written book with a good mystery at its heart (you'll note I haven't spoiled it for you). I'm looking forward to more from Gilbert. 


At the bar/cafe Ombre Rosse, in Piazza di Sant'Egidio,
where Clare lives.

Dianne

Gilbert's book is available on Amazon and elsewhere.




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