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Ritual of Fire by D. V. Bishop

Timy reviews Ritual of Fire, the third book in the Cesare Aldo historical mystery series by D. V. Bishop.

Review(s) of the previous book(s) in the series: City of Vengeance, The Darkest Sin

About the Book
Series:Cesare Aldo #3
Genre:Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher:Pan MacMillan
Date of Publishing:June 1, 2023
Trigger Warnings:death, violence, blood, killing
Page count:411

Possible fit for The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge 2024 prompts:

Joker prompt that goes with anything: Now We Are Free

Anywhere Away From HereKiss My Ass
HandwrittenYou Are My Home
PsychoSummer Jam
AddictedNew Song
The MysticSay It
Queen of KingsThe Legend of Mother Swan
Accidentally in LoveThrough Glass
White FlagRoad to Joy
Sob StoryGive That Wolf a Banana
Always HalloweenKill Your Conscience
TherapyGhosts & Monsters
Low LifeChasing Stars
Book Blurb
Ritual of Fire by D. V. Bishop

A night patrol finds a rich merchant hanged and set ablaze in the city’s main piazza. More than mere murder, this killing is intended to put the fear of God into Florence. Forty years earlier on this date, puritanical monk Girolamo Savonarola was executed the same way in the same place. Does this new killing mean Savonarola’s vengeful spirit has risen again?

Or are his fanatical disciples plotting to revive the monk’s regime of holy terror? Cesare Aldo has his suspicions but is hunting thieves and fugitives in the Tuscan countryside, leaving Constable Carlo Strocchi to investigate the ritual killing. When another important merchant is slain even more publicly than the first, those rich enough to escape the summer heat are fleeing to their country estates. But the Tuscan hills can also be dangerous places.

Soon growing religious fervor combines with a scorching heatwave to drive the city ever closer to madness, while someone is stalking powerful men that forged lifelong alliances during the dark days of Savonarola and his brutal followers. Unless Aldo and Strocchi can work together to stop the killer, Florence could become a bonfire of the vanities once more . . .

Ritual of Fire is an atmospheric historical thriller by D. V. Bishop, set in Renaissance Florence and is the sequel to City of Vengeance and The Darkest Sin.

Song of the Book

I’m still sticking to Maneskin, and luckily for me I still find songs I think kinda fit the themes of the books. For Ritual of Fire, I picked Gasoline mainly because of the lyrics. And look, I know gasoline didn’t exist in the 16th century, but let’s look over that, shall we?

Review

My binge-reading of the Cesare Aldo series brought me to the third book at last. Time flies when you spend it in good company. This review for Ritual of Fire might not be as long as the previous ones, as I feel like I’m a broken record, singing all the praises for both the series and the writing skills of D. V. Bishop. If my reading 3 books in as many months doesn’t tell you how I feel about Cesare Aldo, then I can’t help you.

I’ll try to make this review as spoiler free as possible, but mild spoilers for previous books still can happen, so please approach with caution.

It’s the summer of 1538, so we are a bit over a year after the events in The Dark Sin. Life goes on, Aldo moves outside of Florence to the dominions, while Strocchi works his way up the ladder. When a prominent merchant is found burned alive, Strocchi finally gets the promotion to an officer he’s been waiting for. But it comes with more responsibility and more pressure as well. Aldo on the other hand is somewhat a shadow of his old self as the country life doesn’t suit him.

I love how the Cesare Aldo books build on each other. In Ritual of Fire, we get to know a bit more about Savonarola, who was briefly mentioned in The Darkest Sin. Rebecca, from City of Vengeance also makes an appearance and I was glad to have that glimpse into what happened to her since. But back to Savonarola. The chant of “Savonarola lives” has lived rent-free in my head ever since, but that’s what you get when you are listening to an audiobook with a great narrator. Anyway. Savonarola has been dead for 40 years, and yet, a good number of people in Florence are easily led to believe he returned to dish out some punishments for certain merchants. It’s amazing, how easy to manipulate people if you give them what they believe they want. That was a joy to witness, how riled up they get.

There is a certain thrill about Ritual of Fire, because once the identity of the first victim is found out and the clues start to come together, Strocchi and Aldo (and we the readers) can anticipate who the next victim(s) might be. The thrill is whether they can get to them in time or not. This time we don’t know who the murderer might be, and although I had a couple of suspicions, I was sitting at the edge of my seat until the very end (well, actually I was lying in bed, because I listened until like 3 am, because who needs sleep, right?). The suspense was kept very well, and we only got as much information as we needed.

Maybe it would have been good to learn a bit more about Savonarola and his Fanciulli (men and boys in white robes who were his close followers and collected alms in his name), but again, I’m nitpicking, because I’m a History nerd, and I love learning about that stuff. And yes, Savonarola is based on a real historical person, so you might want to look him up. Fascinating person.

I also find Strocchi’s character arc fascinating. Aldo himself doesn’t change much over the books, but then he is older and he already knows who he is and what his beliefs are. Strocchi is young and life only just started to throw curveballs at him. He is confronted with things he didn’t have to consider before. His black-and-white view is challenged, and he is learning that because he was taught something, doesn’t mean that’s the only true way to live. He might not take things well at first, but he is willing to learn and accept and see people’s values no matter how their ideals might be different from his own.

Ritual of Fire is a crackling addition to the Cesare Aldo series. Bishop seemingly effortlessly keeps the quality very high indeed, and I’m all here for it. In some ways, Ritual of Fire feels like the end of a trilogy, as there are some endings or conclusions (can’t say more, spoilers, sorry), but I’m sure there are many more books where this came from. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings in Aldo and Strocchi’s life and how their relationship will go from here.

Our Judgement
Praise Their Name - 5 crowns

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