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Posted November 15, 2012
I received a copy of this book for review through Reader Spoils.
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Having never read any of the other Serafina Florio mysteries, I don't know if in one of the earlier books, more background is given. In this one, the writer just jumps on in to Serafina's life, including a summons from her close friend to view the scene of a murder at her place of business. Many, MANY people are introduced in the first few chapters - so many that I was very confused about pretty much anybody except Serafina and Rosa. Most baffling of all were the conversations Serafina had with Maddelina (?). I'm still not sure whether she's alive or dead.
It's never established how or why Serafina Florio is particularly qualified to solve a mystery, aside from the fact that she's willing to keep looking and is perfectly willing to nose into other people's lives. I didn't find the character of Serafina, or any of the characters, for that matter, especially appealing, nor was the mystery compelling.
I disliked the writing style, with its short, choppy sentences and weird frequently-backwards dialogue. Perhaps this type of dialogue is in keeping with that time period for Sicily, but it was pervasive and got annoying. Death of a Serpent was well-written, technically, thus the three stars. I found few grammar errors outside of dialogue (where I give it a pass, for the most part), and no spelling or homonym errors that I recall. In addition, because some local words and phrases were thrown in randomly, I learned some Italian in context (though truthfully, some of it, I wouldn't have known what the word meant except that I already knew a very similar word or phrase in Mexican).
Other people will enjoy (and obviously have enjoyed) the book, the dialogue, the syntax, the characters, the mystery. I didn't, but I can't really hold that against Ms. Anderson. The writing was good enough technically that I will probably look for other works by Ms. Anderson, but I doubt I'll read any more period pieces.