A Few Drops Of Blood by Jan Merete WeissA Few Drops Of Blood by Jan Merete Weiss

A Few Drops Of Blood

byJan Merete Weiss

Paperback | March 24, 2015

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Jan Merete Weiss’s Italy comes to life as Captain Natalia Monte of the Naples Carabiniere returns to investigate a murder committed at the heart of the great city’s art community.

When the bodies of two men are found, shockingly posed, in the garden of an elderly countess, Captain Natalia Monte of the Carabiniere is assigned the case. Soon she finds herself shuttling between Naples’s decadent art galleries and violent criminal underworld. If she is to succeed in solving the heinous crime, Natalia must deal with not only her own complicated past and allegiances, but also those of the city as a whole. A riveting and poetic exploration of the violence that lurks in the heart of beauty.
Jan Merete Weiss grew up in Puerto Rico. She studied poetry and painting at the Massachusetts College of Art and received a Master's degree from NYU.  Her poems have appeared in various literary magazines. She lives in New York and lectures at Lehman College.
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Title:A Few Drops Of BloodFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:304 pages, 7.51 × 5 × 0.74 inShipping dimensions:7.51 × 5 × 0.74 inPublished:March 24, 2015Publisher:Soho PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1616955341

ISBN - 13:9781616955342

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Chapter 1The moon was a ghost when the call came in. The caller said she wished to notify Captain Natalia Monte about two bodies. Routed from another Carabinieri station to hers on Via Casanova, the voice announced herself a countess and said that she didn’t trust ordinary police.        Moments later Natalia Monte raced through the predawn gray, siren blaring, flashing lights throwing blue and white bolts across buildings and intersections. She drove along Via Carducci, turned onto the Riviera di Chiaia, past its expensive shops and the aquarium, still run down since the Second World War when the hungry raided its tanks.       The Alfa Romeo zipped along the boulevard, palm trees arched overhead, the plazas dark, the Bay of Naples a blur to her left. On Via Petrarca she shot past a fountain she’d loved as a girl, with marble cherubs blowing trumpets.Finally she slowed and searched for the turn.       Natalia spotted the driveway of Palazzo Carraciulo and passed through its open gates, up a long curved drive lush with royal palms. So different from the cramped alleys of old Naples where she lived and worked. A hundred yards in, she pulled alongside a new police Ferrari parked in front of a grey stone mansion, its pristine façade incorporating sleek pediments discreetly illuminated. An ancient butler directed her to the garden. Natalia followed a stone path around the side of the building and flashed her identification at the Carabiniere guarding the scene.        The lush garden was beautifully wild with grasses and flowers. Several cats dozed on the edge of a patio. Honeysuckle and jasmine perfumed the air. A yellow butterfly onan orange lily slowly opened and folded its wings.        Natalia stepped onto the grass and walked toward the rose bushes that surrounded a life-sized horse cast in metal, the centerpiece of a dry fountain half filled with potted blooms—white roses. The sculpture was enormous. Two male figures sat astride the unbridled steed—one man pitched forward, his arms draped along the animal’s neck.The second man leaned into him from behind. Neither was clothed.       Natalia stepped closer. Dark splotches marred the creamy petals of flowers encircling the fountain. Already there were flies. She circled the statue slowly, shining a light up at the two, just barely making out dark punctures that riddled their chests. Young men—shotgunned from the look of them. Blood dripped down their torsos and loins, along their legs and the flanks of the horse into the fountain’s basin. Its iron scent mixed with the lush bouquet of the roses.       Suddenly she noticed the woman by the rhododendrons, motionless as the men. Silver hair framed her face and flowed past her slim shoulders. She wore a white silkkimono printed with orange and purple cranes. Cranes symbolized long life, Pino, Natalia’s ex, had told her once in an intimate moment. The woman’s eyes were a startling shade of lavender.       Natalia held up her Carabinieri identification. “Captain Monte. As you requested.”       “Contessa Antonella Maria Cavazza,” she said and extended her hand, the tiny fingers like a child’s. “Thank you for coming.”       Natalia took the delicate, age-splotched hand.       “You found them?”       “Yes, I made the unhappy discovery.”       “Do you know the victims?”       “The second man in back. Vincente Lattaruzzo. He’s a senior curator at the Museo Archeologico.”       “When did you find them?”       “Just before seven. I’m an early riser. Unless it’s raining, I take my coffee here in the garden.”       “Did you see or hear anything during the night or early this morning?”       “Hear? No. My bedroom is in the wing over there.” Antonella Cavazza pointed to the far end of the building. “When I have trouble sleeping—which is often these days—I wander the house. But the windows are all double glazed and sealed for the  air-conditioning. So, no. I didn’t hear a disturbance.”       “How do you know the victim?”       “I’m on the board of the museum. Once a year I host a dinner party. Senior staff are invited. I first met him there— last Christmas, I believe. And he had occasion to address the board at times. Terribly likeable.”       The medical examiner, Dr. Francesca Agari, arrived, followed by the forensic photographer draped with equipment. He proceeded immediately to the dead men and began taking still pictures and videotaping the crime scene. A groundskeeper brought a ladder, and the photographer mounted it to get closer to the dead equestrians.        “Captain Monte,” Dr. Agari said, acknowledging Natalia as she came forward, then, “Nell.” She kissed the countess on each cheek. “How terrible for you!”       As usual, Natalia’s colleague was perfectly groomed, blond highlights symmetrical. She wore a filmy gray blouse, tasteful yet sexy under a black suit jacket, and slacks.       “Yes,” the countess said. “How are you my dear? How’s Mama?”       “Difficult as always,” Dr. Agari replied warmly. The countess moved away to let the detective and the doctor confer.       “Mama?” Natalia said, as she pulled on rubber gloves.       Two mortuary men entered near the hedges.       “Over here!” Dr. Agari called. “She and my grandmother were great friends. I had my tenth birthday party here in this garden.”       Mortuary staff earned a good living in their coveted jobs. Nepotism abounded: The husky men looked to be brothers.       “They’ll need another ladder.” Natalia returned to the countess.       “There’s one in the tool shed,” she said and escorted the men toward the far end of the garden.       Natalia searched the perimeter. Fancy topiary abounded: bushes shaped like turrets, azalea trimmed to a perfect circle around the base of an olive tree. Something interrupted the perfect symmetry. She stepped closer. It took her a moment to understand what she was seeing: a cotton work shirt. This one appeared old, the kind once worn by laborers in the fields, patched and mended many times, laid out across a bush as if to dry. It may have been white when new, but this morning—except for the rust-colored sleeves—the shirt lay dark and stiff, heavily stained, its fabric torn.       Natalia called for an evidence bag, slipped it in, and returned to the corpses. Dr. Agari was peering in and around the bodies, looking for signs of sexual union between the two. Soon, Natalia thought, she would peel away, remove, examine and weigh their secrets, as Dr. Agari would their flesh and organs.       There were no discernible tracks in the hard earth along the walks. They’d kept to the grass.       A dove regarded Natalia from its patch of dirt beneath a flaming bougainvillea. Checking for footprints, she followed the pebble walkways radiating from the fountain. Aprofusion of flowers—giant lilies, amber and rose—enveloped her path, their sweet scent thick. A bee anchored the velvet petal of a petunia.       Such a strange place for a gruesome murder. Out of the way, certainly. The countess’s paradise seemed light years removed from the rest of the city. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to stage it here, someone familiar with the garden.       The countess had taken refuge under a large awning that shaded a stone patio and the table where she took her coffee. Lilies, thistles and wild flowers surrounded her. Themortuary men had taken down the bodies and laid them on gurneys. Dr. Agari stood over the corpses, securing her swabs and evidence envelopes.       Natalia approached the countess. “Would you mind taking a look?” She indicated the dead men. Francesca approached across the lawn.       “She’s going to try to identify the other victim,” Natalia said.       “Nella, are you sure?” Dr. Agari came and put her armaround the countess.       “My dear, you know me better than that.”       The mortuary men stepped away. The countess bent from the waist and studied the unidentified corpse. He was short and stocky. Not as young as the other victim, but nomore than forty. Prematurely bald, cheeks ashen.        “Carlo Bagnatti,” the countess said, standing.       “The gossip columnist?” Natalia asked. “Are you sure?”       “He writes for Rivelare and is carried in La Stella. I’ve seen his photo and once or twice on the chat shows.” She looked exhausted.       “Perhaps you should lie down inside,” Dr. Agari suggested. “Here.” She held out an arm to escort her.       “No, I’m fine. Really. I can sit on the terrace.” The countess and her friend made for the house.       “Excuse me,” Natalia called.       The countess looked back. “Yes? What?”       “I’ll need to ask you a few more questions. Would you mind?”       “Of course not.”       Francesca touched the countess’s shoulder. “Are you sure?”       “I’m fine. Don’t let me interrupt your work, cara. We’ll talk later, yes?”       “Certo,” Francesca said. She joined the photographer, and they spoke quietly.       The countess led Natalia to a bench obscured by a large magnolia.       “So, you knew Carlo Bagnatti as well?” Natalia said.       “Only from his column,” she said. “Vile trash. Stories that might shock even you, Captain. Really salacious stuff and, more often than not, he was accurate, unlike the usual tabloid nonsense.”        “So, you knew Vincente Lattaruzzo from the museum and had encountered him at their functions?”        “A number of times, yes.”        “And Bagnatti? You never ran into him at social affairs?”        “No. Though he did contact me once—he was looking for dirt about someone I was acquainted with. Naturally, I was of no help.”       “The way the murdered men were posed,” Natalia asked, “do you have any idea if the victims were involved? Romantically, I mean?”        “I don’t know about that. I do know Vincente lived with a significant other. I believe that’s the correct term. A male. About Bagnatti’s personal life, I have no idea.”        “Would you have Mr. Lattaruzzo’s address?”        “Certainly. I’ll get it for you.”        Natalia closed her notebook. “I will have more questions later today or tomorrow.”       “Of course. Just call ahead. My calendar isn’t full.”       Natalia returned to the victims.       “She okay?” Dr. Agari said.       “Seems so. What do we have?”       “Shotgun blast,” Dr. Agari said, indicating Lattaruzzo. “Small gauge. The other victim the same.”       A small gauge shotgun—the traditional execution weapon of the rural mafia, a stubby weapon for hunting small game and two-legged mammals.       “Victim One,” Francesca said, “also has ligature marks around his throat.”       “He was strangled?”       “More likely hung.”       “The other victim too?”       “No. Both also show signs of having been tortured.” Natalia squatted to look at the wounds more closely and played her flashlight on Lattaruzzo’s face. Vincente, he waslightly made up.       “Is Bagnatti wearing makeup, too?” she asked.       “Both are, yes. Cheeks rouged, a faint white dot at the outside corner of each eye, lashes thick with mascara, eyebrows penciled. Across the lips, the slightest suggestion of color.”       “Were they killed here?” Natalia said.       “I don’t think so. Not enough blood present.”       “Any clues as to where?”       “You might look for wherever Mr. Lattaruzzo left his privates.”

Editorial Reviews

Praise for A Few Drops of Blood "Monte is a fascinating character caught between her dedication to her job and her messy personal life. But the most important character—evoked in lovely and lethal prose—is Naples itself, where Death strips off his mask and works, often with impunity, in the open."—Richmond Times-Dispatch"Weiss's style is polished and straight-ahead . . . The strong woman at the book's center is matched by strong women from other, related fields in ways that have implications for future editions in the series."—International Noir Fiction "Memorable characters boost this atmospheric mystery redolent of the city’s art, architecture, and the détente that permits the Carabinieri and the Camorra to both operate in a state of tense and fragile peace." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review"Fans of Weiss’s series debut These Dark Things who have been awaiting a sequel will find their patience well rewarded by this strong follow-up."—Library Journal "Weiss’ cast is outstanding: gifted, tortured Natalia shares the stage with dangerously exotic Naples and the Camorra’s simultaneous roles as parasite and protector. Highly recommended."—Booklist"An intriguing mystery, brilliant characterizations, and a vibrantly alive setting."—Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine "Fans of mysteries with exotic locales, high body counts, and gruesome murders will enjoy reading Jan Merete Weiss's A Few Drops of Blood."—Gumshoe Review"A beautifully written novel, including glimpses into the history of the area during and after the war and a solid murder mystery at its core, it is recommended."—Midwest Book Review"The setting is superb . . . This series is turning into something very special, and I look forward to the next installment."—Kittling Books"[A] fresh set of villains are boldly painted, and the pace is uptempo . . . Ms. Weiss has established a unique and enduring character with Natalia Monte."—The Crime Book Beat"Twisted and compelling."—Kingdom BooksPraise for Jan Merete Weiss   "Where better to set a noir police procedural than in streets awash in uncollected trash, against a backdrop of smoke rising from Vesuvius? . . . Donna Leon owns Venice, and David Hewson rules Rome. With this formidable debut novel, Weiss lays claim to Naples." —Boston Globe   Weiss invests her debut with a plot replete with shocks, her characters—even the minor ones—are drawn with care and come alive as complete beings on the page, and her vivid portrayal of Naples, in its glory and its gloom, is unforgettable . . . These Dark Things tells a dark story and marks the beginning of what promises to be a bright series." —Richmond Times-Dispatch   "[F]ull of intriguing contradictions and cultural clashes between modern Naples and its past, and Merete Weiss confidently weaves them into this distinctive mystery." —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel