Quick Review (read on for full review)
A quick, entertaining read, with plenty of historical details to get lost in. Well worth a read. 3.5 / 5
Summary (from back of book)
An ancient crime, with a curse that remains…
In the darkest hours of the night at the Museum of Volterra, young archaeologist Fabrizio Castellani is immersed in his work. He has discovered that the famous Etruscan statue known as the ‘shade of twilight’ contains a mysterious object, seemingly enclosed within the sculpture itself. He is suddenly interrupted by the phone ringing – on the other end of the line an icy female voice warns him to abandon his research at once.
A series of gruesome killings follow. The victims, who have all been involved in the desecration of an unexplored tomb, seem to be have been torn to pieces by a beast of unimaginable size. Meanwhile, as Fabrizio excavates the Etruscan tomb he discovers something extraordinary, and chilling…
Will Fabrizio manage to unravel these secrets without being sucked into the spiral of violence himself?
“…not the usual vestal virgin he was used to seeing wandering the halls of museums and NAS offices.”
(From The Ancient Curse by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, page 19)
Note as to why this was chosen as my favourite quote: it made me wonder if the corridors of these museums usually had women dressed in the robes of the priestesses of Vesta wandering up and down them…
It’s been years since I have read anything by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, although I have plenty of his books, translated from the Italian to English, on my shelves. To give you some idea how long it has been, I started this site’s A-Z Review Index in 2013 and no reviews for his books were listed prior to today…
The Ancient Curse is an interesting blend of history and modern mystery with a dash of horror thrown in. Both the past and present are brought dramatically to life as an Etruscan curse is awakened and vengeance for an ancient crime is visited on the town of Volterra.
The supernatural elements of the story were executed well. I felt the fear, could imagine the monster (boy, was it mean!), and sense the building terror, for most of the book. I really enjoyed the Etruscan history mentioned in the story; usually the Etruscans are overlooked in favour of the later Romans when it comes to historical fiction, so this I found very interesting. I also liked reading about the archaeology, from the discovery in the tomb, to how things were recorded and reported as well as behind the scenes at the museum.
The only difficulty with translations is that I find dialogue doesn’t always sound quite right, and that can hinder me creating a strong connection with the characters. I liked Fabrizio, Francesca and Reggiani, but I didn’t have any strong feelings towards them or about what might happen to them. That being said, as I read the book I felt the plot, meaning the curse, the historical context and the archaeological descriptions and accuracy, were perhaps the most important aspect and the characters came second. That doesn’t bother me much, but it might bother some readers. Following on from that, the romance was probably the weakest part of the story…but then, I didn’t read it for the romance.
Overall, I would say this was well worth a read, and that I’m happy to have found time to read another of Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s books. The next one on my list is The Lost Army…hopefully I’ll get around to reading that as part of this year’s Historical Fiction Month in August…