Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy

Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy

by Helene Stapinski


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“A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies…Murder in Matera is a gem.” — San Francisco Chronicle

"Tantalizing" — NPR

“A thrilling detective story… Stapinski pursues the study of her family’s criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results.” — Library Journal

A writer goes deep into the heart of Italy to unravel a century-old family mystery in this spellbinding memoir that blends the suspenseful twists of Making a Murderer and the emotional insight of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels.

Since childhood, Helene Stapinski heard lurid tales about her great-great-grandmother, Vita. In Southern Italy, she was a loose woman who had murdered someone. Immigrating to America with three children, she lost one along the way. Helene’s youthful obsession with Vita deepened as she grew up, eventually propelling the journalist to Italy, where, with her own children in tow, she pursued the story, determined to set the record straight.

Finding answers would take Helene ten years and numerous trips to Basilicata, the rural "instep" of Italy’s boot—a mountainous land rife with criminals, superstitions, old-world customs, and desperate poverty. Though false leads sent her down blind alleys, Helene’s dogged search, aided by a few lucky—even miraculous—breaks and a group of colorful local characters, led her to the truth.

Yes, the family tales she’d heard were true: There had been a murder in Helene’s family, a killing that roiled 1870s Italy. But the identities of the killer and victim weren’t who she thought they were. In revisiting events that happened more than a century before, Helene came to another stunning realization—she wasn’t who she thought she was, either.

Weaving Helene’s own story of discovery with the tragic tale of Vita’s life, Murder in Matera is a literary whodunit and a moving tale of self-discovery that brings into focus a long ago tragedy in a little-known region remarkable for its stunning sunny beauty and dark buried secrets.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062438492
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/20/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 236,629
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Helene Stapinski is the author of Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, which recounts her family’s criminal history, and Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music, which chronicles her years playing drums in a rock band in Manhattan. She has written extensively for the New York Times as well as for New York magazine, Salon, Travel & Leisure, and dozens of other publications and essay collections. On the documentary based on Five-Finger Discount, she has worked as a producer and writer. Stapinski has been a radio newscaster in Alaska; has appeared on National Public Radio; was a featured performer with The Moth; has lectured at her alma mater, Columbia University; and has taught at Fordham University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters xiii

I Plea

Chapter 1 All the Knots Come to the Comb 3

Chapter 2 Dark to Dark 13

Chapter 3 Public Mockery 35

Chapter 4 In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit 35

Chapter 5 You Have the Face of the Gallitellis 39

Chapter 6 Go Back to America and Leave the Dead in Peace 49

Chapter 7 A Turned-Up Nose Is Worse Than Hail 57

Chapter 8 You'll Never Be Sated with Bread and Olives 67

II Discovery

Chapter 9 The Truth Always Rises to the Top 77

Chapter 10 Take a Coffee 85

Chapter 11 The Crypt of the Original Sin 91

Chapter 12 There's No Two Without Three 97

Chapter 13 Wild Things 103

Chapter 14 In the Mouth of the Wolf 109

Chapter 15 Gypsies, Gypsies, Gypsies 115

Chapter 16 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday 119

Chapter 17 Thinking on Your Feet 127

Chapter 18 Faithful Home 131

Chapter 19 Cupa Cupa 141

Chapter 20 With Snow You Get Bread, with Rain You Get Hunger 147

Chapter 21 Don't Spit in the Plate Where You Eat 153

Chapter 22 Pinecones for Brains 155

Chapter 23 Eccolo 161

Chapter 24 Go to Cool 167

Chapter 24 Don't Tell the Farmer How Good Cheese Is with Pears 175

Chapter 26 Empty Crib 183

III Trial

Chapter 27 Puttana 193

Chapter 28 Take This Body, Take This Blood 199

Chapter 29 Far from Town 207

Chapter 30 Way Out 211

Chapter 31 Recoil 217

Chapter 32 Song of the Prisoner 221

Chapter 33 To Every Bird, Its Own Nest Is Beautiful 229

Chapter 34 One Face, One Race 239

Chapter 35 Departure Is Nothing More Than the Beginning of the Homecoming 245

Chapter 36 Last Supper 251

Chapter 37 Get on the Train! 255

Chapter 38 Count Your Nights by Stars, Not Shadows 265

Chapter 39 Come Here 271

Chapter 40 See Naples and Die 275

Epilogue 281

Author's Note 293

Acknowledgments 295

Bibliography 297

Reading Group Guide 301

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