Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Unholy Awakening"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. She teaches philosophy; he teaches English. They live in Spoleto, Italy. Michael Gregorio was awarded the Umbria del Cuore prize in 2007.

They applied the Page 69 Test to their new novel, Unholy Awakening, and reported the following:
We are going to cheat a tiny bit by starting at the bottom of page 68.

Procurator Hanno Stiffeniis has been called to a country house where the corpse of a local seamstress has been recovered from a well. “Angela Enke lay on the table, naked except for a ragged pair of culottes the colour of mud which covered her sex. Her breasts sagged heavily upon her ribs. Her skin was so pasty and pale, it might have been rubbed with powdered chalk. Blood had flowed out in a torrent from the punctures in the left side of her neck...”

Why is Stiffeniis searching so diligently for the cause of death when the evidence is laid out starkly before him?

Well, the story is set in Prussia in 1810. This is the Prussia of the Brothers Grimm on one hand, and Napoleon Bonaparte on the other. The country has been invaded, and it is under French jurisdiction, but the woods and the towns are full of Prussian rebels. Any excuse for mayhem is a good one, and what better excuse could there be than an outbreak of vampire fever? Terror can be turned to patriotic ends with great ease, as we know too well.

Hanno Stiffeniis is a rationalist – a student of the philosopher of reason, Immanuel Kant, as we described him in the first novel in the series, Critique of Criminal Reason – and he explains his dilemma on page 69: “I prayed silently that I would find some other injury which might explain her death, and put an end to the superstitious speculation which had spread like a raging fire through Krupeken, and which threatened now to engulf Lotingen, as well.”

His examination of the corpse reveals other wounds, but as he concludes: “There was nothing fatal in those injuries.”

Our page 69 is a gruesome post mortem, starting from “the tip of her nose was ragged and bloody, broken perhaps,” and ending in disappointment. Hanno Stiffeniis is stumped. Like any investigating magistrate, he had gone to the scene of the crime in the company of other officers. Gudjøn Knutzen, his secretary, had climbed down the well with Hanno, and he has drawn his own conclusions about what he has seen. As Knutzen asserts on page 22. “You know who killed her, sir.” Knutzen and his neighbours believe that they have the right to defend themselves as the hunt for a vampire erupts in Lotingen.

If Prussia is to be spared a bloodbath, Hanno Stiffeniis must find the killer – he is convinced that the killer is no supernatural being – before it is too late.
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue