City of Silver: A Mystery

City of Silver: A Mystery

by Annamaria Alfieri

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429991230
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/04/2009
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 904,142
File size: 325 KB

About the Author

A lover of South American history, Annamaria Alfieri lives in New York City. City of Silver is her first novel.
Annamaria Alfieri is the author of Blood Tango and two other historical mysteries set in South America. Her first novel, City of Silver, was named one of the best debut mysteries of the year by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine. Annamaria is president of the New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America and lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

One

SANTIAGO YANA APPROACHED the mine by night. He had climbed the steep, winding path worn smooth over a hundred years by the hooves of llamas and mules and the barely shod feet of thousands of Indians like himself. Up the Cerro Rico in the weak gray light of the waning moon. His barrel chest heaved. He gulped the icy, rarefied air. Below, the great stone-and-stucco city of Potosí sprawled out at the base of this silver mountain, like the train on a Spanish woman’s gown. On the near side of the river, an occasional torch flickered in the yards of the refineries. Across, in the grid of streets surrounding the central plaza, dull candlelight glowed in the windows of the many rich houses. Spaniards burned wax as if it were cheap as stones.

Santiago paused at the mouth of the mine. Always before, he had gone down in daylight, with his comrades. Standing shoulder to shoulder among them, he sensed himself as part of one large animal, a beast courageous enough to descend the deep main shaft. At the bottom, he became a digit on that powerful creature’s hand, making it possible for him to thread himself through the tight, dusty tunnels and, in the gloom and the din of iron banging on stone, to tear away chunks of silver to be refined and sent to the King of Spain.

Alone here in the night, he was riveted, bound by terror to the entrance. Dank air rose from the main shaft and froze his back and legs.

He blessed himself thirteen times and whispered a prayer to the Virgin of Candelaria. He drew from his pocket a wad of coca leaves and lime and chewed them reverently as he prayed.

He stepped out of the wind onto the top barbacoa, the wooden platform at the mine’s entrance. As he struck his flint to light a candle, his callused hands trembled, and it took four tries to get the flame. How the other miners would tease him if they could see him frightened like a child, like a white woman. When the candle was finally lit, it cast grotesque shadows against the rocks. He placed it in its holder on his black felt hat and grasped the ladder’s heavy ropes of twisted hide. With his foot, he felt for the first wooden rung and immediately slipped. "Madre de Dios!" He had forgotten to take off his sandals. He scrambled back up and left them. He repeated his prayers and began again the descent.

When the captain first gave Santiago the package for safekeeping, he promised that if Santiago would hide it where no one would find it and return it when asked, he would give Santiago ten pesos, equal to a month’s wages. The mine was the only place Santiago Yana knew where surely no one would find the package.

He reached the bottom of the first ladder—ten estados down—the height of eleven men. There were seventeen more. He prayed again and descended.

Ten days ago, when he had hidden the canvas-covered package in the mine, he had expected—when it was called for—to bring it up at the end of his next shift. But tonight the captain had demanded to have it before dawn.

As Santiago descended, the air grew even colder and sudden currents made the candle flicker. He felt in his pocket to make sure he had his flint. "Dios mío." He had left it at the entrance. Too far to go back. He moved more cautiously, trying to keep his head still so the candle attached to his hat would stay steady. If it went out, blackness would envelop him.

This mine was cursed. Every Indian knew the story. Their ancestors had found silver here before the Spanish came, but when the Indian people tried to take the silver from the mountain, a great god voice had boomed out from within, "Stop. This silver is not for you. It is for someone else." Some miners believed the gods had been keeping the silver for the Spanish, but some said it belonged to the gods themselves and that it was sacrilege for any mortal—even a Spaniard—to take it.

Santiago shuddered as he descended from the twelfth barbacoa. It was no darker in the mine at night than during the day, yet he felt the blackness more. Water dripped. Strange rumbling noises echoed in the stones. "Pachamama." He spoke the name of the old Indian goddess. Her image and the image of the Virgin converged in his mind. Both protectors. But Pachamama could also be cruel. He concentrated on the Virgin. The priest said she was more powerful than Pachamama and never cruel.

At the bottom of the last ladder, his lone candle gave him only a small circle of light. Traces of silver glinted in the reddish brown walls of the tunnel. Santiago longed for his comrades, even for the brusque orders of his Spanish masters, anything not to face this darkness alone.

Rubble left by the mining slid beneath his feet. He crashed into a pile of hammers and picks that awaited the next shift. "Mierda!" They clattered, and the noise echoed off the stones. He held his breath for a moment. The sound died.

He limped to the back of the tunnel, past the filthy place where the men relieved themselves, and held his breath until his chest ached. He inhaled and wanted to retch. At the end of the tunnel, where the stench was worst, the sloping ceiling forced him to stoop more and more until he was snaking along on his belly. There, under rocks he had carefully arranged to look as if they had fallen, he groped and grasped the packet.

He scampered back to the ladder and bound the packet to his leg with a leather thong, as he would have bound heavy sacks of ore if this had been a work shift. In his daily climbs with the ore tied to his legs, he paced himself to be able to bear the weight to the top. Without the burden, he was as light as smoke.

Tonight, climbing was like dancing. What worries the ten pesos would remove. Debts weighed on him as heavily as twenty bags of ore. With the money from hiding the packet, he would pay them all and still have enough to buy maize, potatoes, charqui, chilies, maybe even a bit of fresh meat for the feast of Easter, if Rosa would allow such an extravagance.

Rosa did not believe in the religion of the Conquistadores. She said no one should believe in a religion that required people to fast during the harvest. Santiago had asked the priest about this strange rule. The priest had explained that in his country it was the end of winter now, not the end of summer. What a magical place that must be, that it could exchange the seasons. But the priest also said the fast was not about making sure there was enough food, but to prepare the soul to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Rosa did not believe a man could come back from the dead.

By the fifth barbacoa, Santiago’s chest constricted. Every breath hurt. He had climbed much too fast. A pain in his side doubled him over. He lay back on the wooden platform to rest. Then it happened. His hat! His candle! He felt them go, grabbed for them. He yelled as he watched the light stream away until the candle went out and the glow of the wick died completely. He groaned. The darkness was total.

He lay trembling so violently that he thought the spasms would throw him off the platform to his death. In the thunder of his thudding heart and the creaking of the mountain, he heard Pachamama laugh.

"Madre de Dios," he whispered over and over. "Help me."

He groped for the ladder leading up. "Oh, Virgin Maria, please. My children. My wife. Please."

He scrambled onto the next barbacoa on his belly and slithered across until his hands found the next ladder. Disoriented in the dark, he could hardly tell which way was up. Water rushed somewhere near, coming to wash him away. He panted and struggled to grasp the leather ropes with his sweaty palms. Air. He felt a current of air. Oh, gods, be merciful. The top! The entrance must be near. He scrambled up to the next platform. But there was another. And another.

He had lost track of how many were left. When he worked, he always counted as he climbed, always knew exactly how far he was from the air.

Now he began to weep. What shame he would feel if his comrades could see him.

Before bringing the package to the mine, he had let Rosa convince him to look at the contents, even though the captain had warned him not to. He had scolded her for being too nosy, but he was curious, too. She carefully removed the thick blue thread that had bound it, keeping it in one piece and laying it across his knee. He had been disappointed. The parcel contained only papers, with writing they could not read. She had sewn it back up again with the blue thread, stitching the canvas in the same holes, pushing the needle in backward for the last stitch because the thread was so short. No one would ever know they had opened it.

At the next level, a weak shaft of milky moonlight floated before his eyes. He blinked, bit down again on the wad of coca leaves in his mouth. Yes. Yes. He scrambled up the ladder now, panting, wheezing.

He arrived, covered with sweat, at the mouth of the mine. A blast of frigid wind froze his skin but gladdened his heart. He untied the packet from his leg, slipped his feet into his sandals, and began to grope around for his flint.

He smelled the horse before he heard the man approaching. The captain must have become impatient waiting at the inn.

"Señor, I have the package here," Santiago said to the figure in the black cape who approached him in the gloom. He held out the packet and his palm, waiting for the feel of the coins.

The man snatched the package from him and stuffed it into a bag. He laughed. A familiar laugh. But this was not—

The man grabbed him, lifted him as easily as a baby. The world spun. "No. No!" Santiago cried.

With a grunt, the man flung him down the mine shaft.

Santiago Yana did not even hear his own scream of terror as he fell to his death.

AROUND MIDNIGHT THAT same night, Inez de la Morada prepared to go out to collect the packet of papers that would bring her heart’s desire. She had no fear of being discovered by her father, Francisco—the Alcalde, head of the City Council and the richest, most powerful man in Potosí. He had left the house at eleven, as he had done every night for many weeks, to oversee the departure of a mule train. Many believed that Francisco de la Morada was, little by little, sending his enormous fortune out of Potosí to hide it in the vast, desolate high plain that surrounded the city.

Friends and enemies alike speculated on the reason for the removal of his wealth. Some said he expected another war—like the one fought between the Basques and the other Spaniards twenty–five years ago. Others said he foresaw that the dams, which held water in lagoons above the city, would break again and that the ruination would be even worse than the last time. The rational laughed at these fears. How could anyone, even one as powerful as the Alcalde, predict such events?

His daughter Inez knew the reason and the false impressions behind the mule trains. But tonight she would take possession of her own fate, and what her father did or desired would mean nothing.

The first time Inez stole out of her parents’ house at night, her heart had nearly stopped with fear. She wished she could slip out unnoticed as effortlessly as she would brush an errant dark curl from her forehead, but tonight her breathing fluttered once again. On this second Sunday in Lent, she was leaving this place forever.

She dressed in heavy velvet clothes and light slippers that made not a sound as she walked through the darkness. She glided down the wide corridor and entered her father’s study. In the flickering orange light from the torches in the courtyard outside, she opened a secret drawer in the tall desk near the window. She withdrew a bag of silver and hefted it. More than enough. The papers she was about to reclaim would bring her all she longed for. Until then, these coins would pay for what she needed.

Silver, she had learned from infancy, was the most powerful substance there was. Everything in Potosí depended on it. The city’s whole existence, the importance of its citizens individually and collectively, stemmed from silver and only silver.

Her father had taught her this, as he had taught her so many things. She felt a small pang for him. She had loved him so when she was a little girl. But seeing him through her mother’s eyes, she had grown to scorn him. Briefly, when she was thirteen or so, she had openly mocked his pretentious manners, his vanity about his clothes, the lumbering way he walked. Rather than evoking his ire, her barbs wounded him. She learned then that she could get whatever she wanted by giving and withholding her love. His weakness for her only made her despise him more. By now, she had pretended to love him so often that sometimes she almost did.

She made her way noiselessly back down the corridor, dragging her fingertips along the smooth plaster wall until she felt the jamb of her mother’s bedroom door.

She hated her mother. Only for a few months—when she had been threatened by a fever—had she cared anything for her. But she was not worth a daughter’s notice. Even the servants mocked her. Not when they knew their mistress was listening, of course. In her presence, they feigned respect. Away from her, in their own language, they freely criticized their weak, self-indulgent padrona in front of the smiling little girl they thought did not understand. Everything they said was true. Her mother was a pig. She had been so drunk once that she had vomited in the central plaza, in front of half the nobility of the town. Inez could not walk in the Calle de los Mercaderes with her without seeing the other shoppers whispering behind their hands. Never again. tonight Inez would collect that packet of documents, her passport to freedom.

Holding her breath, Inez gently turned the latch of her mother’s door, entered, and in a flash exited again by the servants’ door opposite. The stairway led her quickly through the kitchen and out to the silent, stone-paved street.

BEHIND THE DRAPERIES of her disarrayed bed, Ana Rojas de la Morada smiled. Her daughter probably assumed she was asleep when she stole through the room. But Ana waited each night to see if she would hear the faint click of the latch and to sense, not quite to hear, her daughter moving through the room, to revel in this betrayal her husband so deserved.

Husband and daughter both despised her. And she had learned to despise them in return.

She giggled, like the lovely, lively girl she had been when her bankrupt noble father gave her to Francisco Morada in marriage. Morada, the commoner who dragged her from her elegant, benign Lima to this money-grubbing Gomorrah with its intolerable society and unbreathable air. From the first, she had loathed her boorish clown of a lowborn husband—his coarse speech, his rough manners—everything about him, except his sex. On her wedding night, Francisco had taken his pleasure of her without regard to hers. But even as a girl she had learned to find her own satisfaction alone behind the curtains of her virgin bed. With him, she discovered that the same fantasies that had served her before their marriage brought her to ecstasy as he moved within her. Each night, when she lay down and drew the finely embroidered marriage linen over her, she welcomed the only part of him that interested her—what he thrust through the slit in the sheet.

He was intense. He believed that true vigor in their coupling would give him a son. To her enormous gratification, he had kept at it nightly for almost a year before he impregnated her.

She brought forth Inez.

When he returned to her bed three months after the birth, he came with increased energy and stamina. For more than two years, she did not conceive, but she had him nightly, giving her pleasure beyond her imagining and, as was seemly, completely without his knowledge.

When she gave him Gemita, another daughter, in return, he gave up.

At first she had tried to persuade him to return to her, reminded him that it was their duty to procreate as God had ordained. She had even said she wanted to give him a noble son. Noble was a word that she thought would entice him, since noble was what she was and what he longed to be. But that common worm of a social pretender had had the gall to reject her.

"I want no other child but Inez," he had said, as if the second dainty pink infant in the cot were nothing to him. Inez was then barely four years old, yet father and daughter were bound in a potent rapport that was to grow and blossom and make Inez dearer to him than any son could be. Or any wife.

Ana grinned. Weakling that he was under all his bluster, he adored his daughter. He thought he knew her.

The mother rose and glanced through the shutters at the shadowy figure disappearing down the deserted street. When he discovered Inez had gone out into the night, it would wound him worse than the knife Ana dreamed of plunging again and again and again into his flesh.

Excerpted from City of Silver by Annamaria Alfieri.
Copyright 2009 by Annamaria Alfieri.
Published in August 2009 by Minotaur Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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City of Silver: A Mystery 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
JGolomb on LibraryThing 4 days ago
"Potosi had a Spanish soul: proud, greedy, cruel, and noble. It had beauty. Grandeur. Chaos."Potosi is the location of Alfieri's terrific historical mystery, "City of Silver". This murder mystery is set in 1650 in the then Peruvian city nestled against a silver-rich mountain that made the city one of the wealthiest places in not only the new world, but the entire world. The story revolves around the discovery of girl found dead in a room of a convent. She's naked, the door is locked, there's no other entrance, and no apparent cause of death. Threaded through this mystery is the arrival of the King's emissary investigating whether the coinage produced at Potosi is being blended with lesser metals. Not only could this spell financial disaster for the Potosi community, but the church's representative of the Inquisition in New Spain is arriving as well.While things may seem a bit melodramatic, the story pulls together very very well. Alfieri's world is vividly reproduced, and maintains a genuinely New World feel. She absolutely nails the tone and voice of the era. There are shades of Gary Jennings' New World in Alfier's Potosi, and the characters are strongly built, but not as boldly as Jennings' worlds of the Aztec. The characters are strong and familiar. Padre Junipero and Abbess Maria are both bastions of the religious communities in Potosi, but have deep seated dark secrets that led them to the Church and led them to this city far from their homes in native Spain. The local representative of the church's Inquisition is full of bile and takes irredeemable joy in sending sinners to the auto de fe. Cliched, perhaps, but the character development moves at an appropriate pace and, with only one exception, did I find their back stories conclude less dramatically than foreshadowed.I have no reservations in recommending this read to fans of both historical fiction and historical mysteries.
corglacier7 on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Riches always come with a cost and so many a story of a mining boomtownis filled with crime, greed, harsh conditions, and the inevitable bustonce the treasure is mined out.And so we find ourselves living the story of a mining town, but not onthe Western frontier. ¿City of Silver¿ takes readers to the seventeenthcentury setting of Peru under the heavy hand of Spanish rule. Potosi,now in modern-day Bolivia, was once the richest city in the New Worlddue to its silver mines, a fabulous source of wealth giving rise to thewishful dubbing of subsequent American mining towns by the same name.Racial tensions between the Spanish and the natives simmer hot and theProtestant reformation threatens Catholic strength. Besides that,alarming rumors of counterfeit coins, thus violating confidence inPotosi¿s wealth and threatening Spain¿s economic power, cause furtherunrest in the city. The King of Spain, in fact, is so disturbed at thenews that he¿s sending a Grand Inquisitor to investigate, striking fearinto both loyal citizens and criminals alike. And then Mother MariaSanta Hilda, Abbess of the local convent, opens her door to Inez Rojasde la Morada, daughter of one of the town¿s most powerful men. Inezrefuses to speak of her reasons for seeking sanctuary, and shortly afterMaria Santa Hilda finds her dead, in a locked room: suicide or murder?Uncovering old secrets and the dark side of Potosi¿s fabulous wealth isa dangerous proposition¿some things are easier left buried. The mysteryof Inez¿s death and life plays out against the mystery of thecounterfeit coins, the two stories neatly intersecting as Maria SantaHilda stubbornly pursues her inquiry with the gumption of a true PI,though her duty to her order and her bishop frequently wars with herduty to the truth. Skillful incorporation of the religious, sexual,racial, and political aspects of life¿and for the non-Spanish, non-male,non-Catholic, or non-wealthy, they could be pretty grim¿at that timegive ¿City of Silver¿ an authentic historical feel, and the unusualperiod setting gives this mystery a distinction all its own. Life in therarified air of the Andes four hundred years ago may have been quitedifferent, but we see that greed and murder, and thus human nature,rarely change.
richardderus on LibraryThing 4 days ago
An historical mystery set in seventeenth-century Peru, certainly an unusual choice for an author, was completely irresistible to me the day I stumbled across it in the liberry.Sadly, I ended the 315-page read wishing I'd resisted. It's not a bad book, really, but it's ponderous. The pacing problem that plagues many an historical mystery was amply demonstrated here...murders happened, but seemingly without emotional affect or effect. It's startling to me that the murder of a young woman in a convent could elicit such a small response from me. I was more moved by the death of a miner.I found the characters in the book hard to get into, feeling little kinship with the POV Sister Maria Santa Hilda and less with her fellow Spanish Potosinos. Simply couldn't be bothered to learn their names, even...I gave them letters in my head, and after "F" gave up entirely...but gravy on toast, lady, could you have found a glummer, less scintillating group of people to write about?!Overall not recommended.
wortklauberlein on LibraryThing 4 days ago
The Washington Post's positive review, not the merits of the book itself, kept me reading this attractively presented but ultimately vapid mystery. After much hand-wringing and vague allusions to their personal misdeeds by several of the main characters and much posturing by the rest, we finally arrive at what might be a satisfying conclusion, in which some of the characters finally acquire some personality, only to have the denouement cut short. Rather than detail the evidence presented to the Inquisitor and the closed-door conversation between king's envoy and Inquisitor, the author kisses them off with a couple of bland sentences. Highly disappointing.
Brodk More than 1 year ago
This is a very, very good book, both as a murder (and other) mystery and as an examination of a historical period and locale. I found the details of the book convincing in recreating the feel and circumstances of the rich city of Potosi, Peru, present-day Bolivia. The mystery concerns two deaths, one of an Indian miner and the second of the daughter of the richest and most powerful lay person in Potosi. I recommend this book to everyone.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
"Potosi had a Spanish soul: proud, greedy, cruel, and noble. It had beauty. Grandeur. Chaos." Potosi is the location of Alfieri's terrific historical mystery, "City of Silver". This murder mystery is set in 1650 in the then Peruvian city nestled against a silver-rich mountain that made the city one of the wealthiest places in not only the new world, but the entire world. The story revolves around the discovery of girl found dead in a room of a convent. She's naked, the door is locked, there's no other entrance, and no apparent cause of death. Threaded through this mystery is the arrival of the King's emissary investigating whether the coinage produced at Potosi is being blended with lesser metals. Not only could this spell financial disaster for the Potosi community, but the church's representative of the Inquisition in New Spain is arriving as well. While things may seem a bit melodramatic, the story pulls together very very well. Alfieri's world is vividly reproduced, and maintains a genuinely New World feel. She absolutely nails the tone and voice of the era. There are shades of Gary Jennings' New World in Alfier's Potosi, and the characters are strongly built, but not as boldly as Jennings' worlds of the Aztec. The characters are strong and familiar. Padre Junipero and Abbess Maria are both bastions of the religious communities in Potosi, but have deep seated dark secrets that led them to the Church and led them to this city far from their homes in native Spain. The local representative of the church's Inquisition is full of bile and takes irredeemable joy in sending sinners to the auto de fe. Cliched, perhaps, but the character development moves at an appropriate pace and, with only one exception, did I find their back stories conclude less dramatically than foreshadowed. I have no reservations in recommending this read to fans of both historical fiction and historical mysteries.
macabr More than 1 year ago
Annamaria Alfieri's CITY OF SILVER is an historical mystery that tells a story that is contemporary in the revelations of the things that move men, and women, to do the worst to each other. CITY OF SILVER is two stories. The first begins with the death of Inez de la Morada who has fled to the local convent, pleading for sanctuary. She refuses to tell the Abbess from what she is fleeing but she insists that the convent is the only place she will be safe. Inez is the daughter of the richest and most powerful man in Potosi, Alcalde de la Morada, the leader of the community. Why is Inez, the cherished daughter, hiding from the father who treated her as the son he never had? Inez insists that she wants to join the religious order to atone for the sins of the world. Abbess Maria Santa Hilda isn't convinced of Inez's motives but they are quickly irrelevant when Inez is found dead in her locked cell. There are no marks on her body and nothing unusual in the room. There is a partially empty glass of water and a flagellum similar to that used by all the nuns to mortify the flesh but nothing that explains the sudden death of a healthy young woman. It is Holy Week, so Inez must be buried quickly and without the pomp that would normally surround the death of a member of the city's most prominent family. Inez's father agrees to have her buried with the deceased nuns of the order in the church. Soon, rumors spread that Inez committed suicide, leaving the Abbess open to the dangers of the Inquisition for having broken church law by allowing a suicide to be buried in consecrated ground. The king's representative for the Inquisition gloats at the possibility of bringing down the Abbess who has allowed women to learn to read and write and to believe that they have a greater role than Spanish society grants them. Inez's father has problems of his own. The silver mines of Potosi have been sending coins to the king's coffers in Spain that have been adulterated with alloy. The face value is not the real value and this is a threat to the Spanish economy and its dominance in the Americas. The king's investigator is coming to demand answers but it is far more concerning that papers that would label Morada a traitor are missing from the secret compartment in his desk. Greed, corruption, jealousy, fear, arrogance, and hate motivate the actions of most of the male figures in the story. And while the women are not above these same faults, CITY OF SILVER is a story of strong women. "...Maria Santa Hilda knew well Fray DaTriesta's distaste for the company of women....he never looked her in the face. He cleaved to the conviction of many priests - that women were the source of all evil. It was true, she thought petulantly, if you considered that women were the source of all men." DaTriesta's hate of the abbess leads to her arrest and trial by the Inquisitor but it doesn't stop Sor Monica, the herbalist at the convent, from risking her life and freedom to prove how Inez died so that the Abbess can be freed from the machinery of the church. The story is set in 1650 in a society that does not accord women any right to control their lives. Everyone, male and female, no matter what their station, are in perpetual danger from the Inquisition where truth is ignored and power is used for its own sake. The circumstances are not relevant to women in the 21st century, but each of the women in the story can be found among the women we know in our own lives
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love historical novels, some mysteries but especially learning about different regions of the world. This author has certainly done her research!
moonbeamKW More than 1 year ago
WOW I was blown away by the characters, writing style and more importantly a new area of historical importance. This is a great can't put down page turner. I look forward to many further books from this fine new author
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1650, Spanish King Felip IV is concerned with a flood of impure silver coins that threatens the very foundation of the empire. He sends the Visitador General Doctor Francisco de Nestares to Potosi, the largest city in the New World and the center of silver production to investigate and execute those coining the counterfeits.--------------- At the same time in Potosi, Inez Rojas de la Morada, daughter of the Alcalde Municipal, apparently commits suicide while inside an abbey. The New Spain Grand Inquisitor Fray Perdro de la Gasca sees an opportunity to strengthen his control; he blames the abbess Mother Maria Santa Hilda. He calls her a heretic because she was allowing Inez to be interred in holy ground. Not one to sit idly by, Mother Maria sets out to prove that Inez was a murder victim and did not take her life. Her inquiry uncovers implications that some of her people are involved in the watering down of the silver.--------------------- This is a great mid seventeenth century historical fiction that grips the audience from the moment the Spanish monarch sends his "investigator" to New Spain and never slows down as the tale turns into an exhilarating amateur sleuth with a clock ticking. Revelations abound that stun the Mother Superior while the Visitador General and the New Spain Grand Inquisitor do their respective jobs. The mystery is cleverly done to entertain readers with strong competing inquiries pulled by personal agendas; in which the truth may prove irrelevant but even more so to provide a deep vivid look at the biggest city in the seventeenth century New World. Awesome Annamaria Alfieri will be fully welcomed by the genre. Harriet Klausner