City of Vengeance launches D. V. Bishop’s series set in sixteenth century Florence. With this first case, his main character—Cesare Aldo—instantly joins the ranks of iconic historical crime fiction protagonists. Aldo is a former soldier and is now an officer in the Renaissance city’s justice system; but he is also a homosexual who is forced to keep that secret at the risk of being condemned—both morally and legally.

At the center of City of Vengeance are two criminal cases. The first is the murder of a male prostitute known for dressing up in woman’s clothing—although it’s unclear if this is meant to fool his clients or to further entice them. The second murder under investigation is the death of a Jewish moneylender killed in his own home, significant for many reasons not the least of which is the importance of wealth in this historical society.

Naturally, the death of a gay man is of little concern for the city, but Cesare Aldo is commanded to solve the murder of Samuele Levi within four days, ensuring that the celebrations around the feast of Epiphany are not affected. This would be challenge enough, but Aldo also has to contend with the suspicions of a rival officer of the court—Meo Cerchi. With Cerchi determined to destroy Aldo’s career (and his life), the race to find the truth is as vital as ever.

Readers will immediately note that while this is set in long-ago Florence, the themes are as relevant as ever. Here we have a gay man investigating crimes against a Jewish man and another member of the LGBTQ+ community. Each of the players is an outsider in some way and that undoubtedly affects the unspooling of this complicated tale.

An extended section set in Le Stinche, an historic—and long demolished—prison known for its horrible conditions and corrupt treatment of criminals is just one of many examples that highlight D. V. Bishop’s impeccable research into the past. Sixteenth century Florence comes alive on the page in all its glory, but never to the extent that the harsh realities of that time period are overlooked or ignored.

Cesare Aldo is eventually able to link the case with a larger plot involving Alessandro de’ Medici, the Duke of Florence. The investigations into both crimes arrive at satisfactory conclusions which also leave the door open for later developments. Readers will long to spend more time with Cesare Aldo and several of the other characters living in this Florence-of-yesteryear, not the least of which is a potential love interest for our hero.

City of Vengeance was Longlisted for the 2022 CWA Gold Dagger, the 2022 CWA Historical Dagger, and for the 2022 Ngaio Marsh Award. The novel’s sequel—The Darkest Sin—would go on to win the 2023 CWA Historical Dagger, so readers should feel comfortable that they are in the hands of an author who is a master of crime fiction set in the past. A third book is also available now, with a fourth planned for June 2024.

It is refreshing that one of the big takeaways from City of Vengeance is the idea that being true to oneself is among the highest of achievements—even if that means loving someone society views as inappropriate. By creating Cesare Aldo, a proud gay man making his way in sixteenth century Italy, D. V. Bishop helps to remind readers all that in the end, people are people and justice must prevail.

BUY LINKS: City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop