Thursday, August 30, 2007

"The Seventh Sacrament"

David Hewson is the author of the Nic Costa series of novels set in contemporary Rome. A former journalist with the London Times and Sunday Times, his work has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai ... and Italian.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel The Seventh Sacrament and reported the following:
I write books about people. What else is there? Marmosets? A random look at P69 of The Seventh Sacrament confirms this habit. A somewhat testy Roman police inspector by the name of Leo Falcone has been attacked, in a nasty, odd and very personal way. He was with friends in the police at the time and they care about him. Shortly after the attack their boss, Commissario Bruno Messina, arrives on the scene. Falcone and his friends don't like Bruno Messina. He feels the same about them in return, is decidedly unsympathetic about Falcone's near-brush with death, even though it seems Falcone, who has been sick for some reason, may well be on the death list of a serial killer.

Quite a bit there for a single page, and a short one at that since it's the last in the chapter. Is it representative of the rest of the work? Absolutely. The Seventh Sacrament is, like most my books, pretty old-fashioned in that embraces multiple points of view, story strands and, in this book, two different eras too. A first person wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am stock thriller it ain't. One of those strands is fatherhood; how necessary it is, how disastrous it can be when the skills go somewhat wrong. Bruno Messina, though you might not guess it, has a father too, and he turns out to have been Falcone's boss fourteen years before when this nasty little affair began with an almighty screw-up on the part of the police.

The relationships are in place, the problem's there too, out in the open demanding to be tackled, and it's clear Commissario Bruno Messina knows more than he's letting on. Seems to me I have a story...

Page 69 - US edition

A stout, powerful-looking man got out. He was in his thirties wearing a black woollen overcoat and the disdain that went with rank. Nic Costa had already decided, for no good reason, he didn’t much like Commissario Bruno Messina.

Falcone watched the newcomer approach.

‘You know, Leo,’ he said, shaking his head, as if dealing with amateurs. ‘It would be nice if, just this once, you were where you were supposed to be. Home.’

Falcone said nothing, just nodded with that brief smile that was too professional to be classed as insolence.

‘Did he say much?’ Messina asked. ‘An explanation? Anything?’

Costa thought of that last whispered message. Bramante meant it to have some private significance, he thought.

‘He said,’ Falcone replied, looking a little slow, a little baffled, ‘that he was sorry, but I’d have to be the last now. Number seven.’

Commissario Messina listened and then, to Costa’s disgust, burst out laughing.

‘I want everyone in the van,’ Messina ordered when his private amusement had receded. He pointed to Falcone, Costa, Peroni and Teresa Lupo. ‘You four are back on duty, as of this moment.’

Raffaella was squawking a protest already, about Falcone’s sick leave, his injuries, his physical difficulties.

‘You…’ Messina interrupted her. ‘… and Agente Costa’s girlfriend here are in protective custody. One of the cars will take you to the Questura. You can wait there.’

‘And where…’ Teresa Lupo interjected, just loud enough to overcome the shrieks of protest from Emily and Raffaella, ‘are we going might I ask?’

Bruno Messina smiled.

‘To see number five.’
Read an excerpt from The Seventh Sacrament and learn more about David Hewson and his work -- and take a virtual tour of Nic Costa's Rome -- at his website and his blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue