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A Dead Man in Naples
Seymour of the Special Branch, book 6

by Michael Pearce


His policemanís training and flair for languages has made Sandor Seymour the man the Foreign Office sends in when they need an investigator abroad. The problem in Naples isn't so much that Scampion, an English diplomat, was stabbed to death on the street. Thatís not all that unusual in Naples, and local police should be able to handle it. Mind you, his being on a bicycle is odd and his retaining his wallet borders on incredible. No, the real problem is a credible tip claiming Scampion's death was connected to high level politics with international repercussions. The Foreign Office will naturally deny it, but they'd like Seymour to go find out what it is theyíre denying. And while it's not as important, he might also try to find out who killed Scampion.

I fell in love with the author's earlier Mamur Zapt series because of its vivid characters and setting, sparkling with social comedy-based humor. The humor worked especially well because it was experienced through series hero Gareth Owen, an appreciative audience and participant, even when it was at his own expense. The first few books in this series seemed flat by comparison, which I initially put down to less colorful settings. But as itís come into its own, I've realized that the problem was Seymour himself. While I still think there was less humor to begin with, what was there was seriously undercut by Seymour coming across as very young, naÔve and overwhelmed by it all. Thatís changed†considerably, especially with the last few books. They include more of the slice of life / street life based humor that made the Mamur Zapt books such a joy to read. But just as importantly Seymour has grown into someone more comfortable with his own role who is another appreciative observer of the absurdities around him. This leaves the reader smiling at everything from Seymourís interactions with his fiancťe Chantale, a spiritual cousin of the Mamur Zaptís Zeinab, to his discovery of the snail soup restaurant and its habituťs, a not so distant cousin of the Mamur Zaptís street restaurants.

If you tried earlier books in this series and were disappointed, do yourself a big favor and give it another try with this book and the prior entries, starting with Morocco. However, if you havenít tried any of them, this would be a great place to dive in for some fun reading. Recommended.

The Book

December 2009
Soho Constable
Historical Mystery / Naples, Italy 1913
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2010
© 2010