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Gregorio, Michael - 'Unholy Awakening'
Paperback: 464 pages (Aug. 2011) Publisher: Faber and Faber ISBN: 0571237924

In the town of Lotingen in French military occupied East Prussia during the Napoleonic period of the early 19th Century, Hanno Stiffeniis the local magistrate is called to investigate the murder of a seamstress. Her body is discovered at the bottom of a disused well, which is located on the rented property of an Emma Rimmele, a strange but beautiful woman who has aroused a lot of curiosity since she recently arrived in the town accompanied with her sick father. She travelled to the town with a coffin amongst her luggage! She intends to bury her late mother in the ancestral tomb in the local cemetery when she gets permission.

The corpse found at the bottom of the well has bite marks on its neck and the body has been drained of blood. One word is heard on every tongue: vampire. Hanno, however, has some difficulty with his investigation into the young seamstress's death, as she was a very private person and details of her last days are hard to come by, but he perseveres. Unfortunately, because of the controversy regarding vampirism in Prussia at that time, he finds there is a lot of superstition and gossip to be avoided. He is sure that the death that occurred was a fairly straight-forward murder and the vampire references are just unnecessary diversions. Regrettably, more deaths occur which muddies the waters even further. Hanno has problems satisfying the French occupying forces as well as his local Prussian neighbours. Then Hanno hears from a nearby town that a French officer's throat has been ripped out and subsequently another French soldier has bled to death. The horrors continue in this historical mystery with vampiric references.

This very erudite psychological historical thriller will keep you in suspense until the very last pages. There is a big fashion for thrillers with a supernatural or vampiric basis to their stories. Generally speaking I have not got much time for them but this one was outstanding and was a real pleasure to read as the writer has taken really good care over their research and it is very believable. I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to all serious fans of historical mystery thrillers.

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Anglo-Italian couple, Michael G Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. This is their fourth Hanno Stiffeniis book written in collaboration.

Terry Halligan, England
October 2012

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 20/10/2012 09:30