"Like Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf in [Patricia] Highsmith’s best-known novel, the central characters in 'The Bishop’s Bedroom' orbit one another like ballroom doppelgängers until it’s difficult to tell who is lying to whom or why ... This is a strong, well-written and weirdly seductive little novel about enjoying the small pleasures of life."
New York Times Book Review
"Chiara’s engrossing novel of loafing lotharios in post-WWII Italy hums with suspense ... Readers will be swept away by this lush, gothic-tinged mystery and its unscrupulous characters."
"Chiara's brief masterwork turns insinuation into high art ... A first-rate book that is both a moody suspense novel and a haunting allegory."
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Happily, this hypnotic novel, a mix of thriller and mood piece on the nature of sexual attraction, has finally been translated into English ... The sexual tension crackles ... The suspense is as palpable as the unmistakable echoes of Patricia Highsmith."
"For such a wicked and wanton novel, The Bishop's Bedroom is as tightly-controlled and queasily suspenseful as the best of Patricia Highsmith. It seduced me from its atmospheric opening pages to its shocking and satisfying final act."
Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
"Piero Chiara’s novel is at once a murder mystery and a lyrical study of desire, greed, and deception. The ending is simply stunning."
André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name
"Piero Chiara’s dark idyll of erotic entanglements in post-WWII Italy was a revelation to me: a character study of sinister power, a beautiful evocation of the dolce vita on Lake Maggiore, and an unnerving portrayal of the predatory sexual mores of another world that mirrors those of our own in the strangest, most unexpected ways."
James Lasdun, author of The Fall Guy and Give Me Everything You Have
"Many try to write the seductive literary thriller set in romantic Italy, but it takes a real master like Piero Chiara to show how it’s done. The Bishop's Bedroom is sharp and sophisticated, a mystery with a keen awareness of the social forces that pull at its web. I didn’t want it to end."
Christopher Bollen, author of A Beautiful Crime and Orient
"I consider myself to be the son of Piero Chiara ... I was his devoted reader. I've always loved storytellers and Chiara had great powers of seduction."
Andrea Camilleri, author of The Shape of Water
"Sensual and melancholy in equal measure, The Bishop’s Bedroom is also a beautifully observed book."
"A poetic novel, stylishly structured and composed of tight perfectly judged prose ... never less than fascinating, engrossing ... The Bishop’s Bedroom is an act of prestidigitation, a sleight of hand, it’s riveting, entrancing and delicious but so mysterious, thrilling."
"Gem of late 20th century Italian literature ... Taking an indirect approach to the thriller genre, Chiara has created a softly seductive narrative filled with nearly as many subtle mysteries as a gothic novel ... The narrative also sparkles with a bemused, ironic and piquant humor."
“An author universally known in Italy, who has received several literary prizes … esteemed as one of the most talented of modern novelists.”
World Literature Today
"It’s all very up-for-anything, postwar dolce vita ... You’ll fall under the book’s pleasurable, slightly sinister spell and find satisfaction."
"Suspenseful ... A compact novel that is rich in atmosphere. Chiara explores themes of greed, lust, and power and wraps them in a little murder mystery ... Engrossing."
Historical Novels Review
"Just mentioning it will improve your status at your Zoom book club meeting. It’s a gem of a book ... Will enthrall and make you proud to be a reader of classic literary crime fiction."
The Durango Telegraph
“One of Piero Chiara’s masterpieces.”
“An erotic charge is ready to explode at any moment … One of the greatest works of 20th century Italian literature.”
An unnamed sailor, stopping off in the northern Italian port of Oggebbio on Lake Maggiore in 1946, is drawn into the shadowy world of a villa owner who befriends him.
The 30-ish sailor, who is returning to this area of grand old houses and lush gardens after having been a war refugee in Switzerland, is free and unattached. His new companion, Orimbelli, who invites him to stay in his villa, lives with his "schoolmarmish and snooty" older wife and widowed sister-in-law. While taking Orimbelli on recreational cruises to various ports and islands, the sailor becomes involved in a series of erotic adventures with women who join them along the way. Among them is a married woman the sailor regularly visits but whom Orimbelli can't resist seducing in the sailor's absence. "Maybe he wasn't a demon…but a poor man shaken up by the wars," the sailor rationalizes. "I knew it wasn't easy for him—or me, for that matter—to be any other way, or to be better." We learn that Orimbelli has an improper interest in his sister-in-law; he knows as she does not that her husband, who went missing during the war, is alive and wealthy in Ethiopia. First published in 1976 and made into a 1977 film starring Ugo Tognazzi, the late Italian novelist Chiara's brief masterwork turns insinuation into high art. Beneath the dead calm on the lake and the sensual tranquility of the surrounding villages, darkness lurks, as if the horrors of war went underground. "One can't escape here," says the sailor before attempting to do exactly that.
A first-rate book that is both a moody suspense novel and a haunting allegory.