Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Murder in Trastevere - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Faye Masters to Cozy Up With Kathy. You can find Faye on the pages of the Roman Holiday Mystery series by Jen Collins Moore. MURDER IN TRASTEVERE is the second book in the series.

Going to Rome? Seven Places to See Caravaggio’s Paintings
By Faye Masters (dictated to Jen Collins Moore)


Thinking about a trip to Rome? You’re in luck, because it’s the city I’ve called home for ten years. Some call me the Queen Bee of the expat set here, and it’s true. I know the best places for absolutely everything, and I’m always happy to share my expertise.

One tip is to create a quest. In a city as fabulous as Rome, you can’t see everything. Setting a mission for yourself is a way to get focus. I recently created the Caravaggio SocietaÌ for my friends, with a mission to see all twenty-five of Caravaggio’s paintings in Rome. He’s the bad boy artist of the Renaissance, so I knew it would be fun.

It didn’t work out quite the way I expected. The murder of one of our own put a damper on things. Especially when the gang decided it was my fault. Half thought I laced Rowena’s drink with poison, the other half seemed to think I was the intended victim. Needless to say, they weren’t exactly in the mood to spend time looking at art with me.

But I went anyway. I wasn’t about to let them get the best of me. And I’m glad I did. Not only did I get the clues I needed to piece the puzzle together, but I learned a lot about art in the process.

Caravaggio painted at the end of the Renaissance, a time when the Catholic church was spending loads of money on artists to create pictures that brought the stories of the bible to life. It was a way of reinforce the Church’s power in the face of the protestant reformation. Caravaggio took the money and pioneered an entirely new style of painting by creating a spotlight effect of light and darkness that made his art something much more than a simple bible story.

Want to see his work for yourself? Take my advice and make it a quest. Here are seven of my favorite stops to get you started:

Santa Maria del Popolo – This church stands in a beautiful piazza where pilgrims first entered Rome back in the day, so it’s a fitting beginning for a quest. There are two Caravaggio’s here, Crucifixion of St Peter and Conversion of St Paul. Crucifixion paintings are never cheerful, but there’s a lovely horse in the Conversion of St. Paul.

Capitoline Museums – The Capitoline is my favorite museum in Rome. Unlike all the places in the city stuffed with Renaissance and Baroque art, this museum is mostly statues, and mostly from the ancient period. Attractive pieces with interesting stories about a time in history that had played out like a soap opera. There are plenty of love affairs and villains and complicated family histories on display, plus two more Caravaggios: a leering John the Baptist and a crime-in-process in The Fortune Teller.

Palazzo Barberini – One of Rome’s hidden gems, this museum is blessedly crowd-free. It doesn’t have any antiquities and the art is thoughtfully arranged. (Many museums here are so jammed with great art it’s overwhelming. This place gives their art space to breath.) You can check three Caravaggios off your list here: the heart-stopping Judith Beheading Holofernes, plus two others, St Francis in Meditation and Narcissus.

Vatican Museums – This place is HUGE and probably already on your must-see list. While you’re wading through some of the world’s most impressive art, pause in front of the museum’s single Caravaggio: The Entombment of Christ. For the first time, it made me stop and really think about the people who had lived alongside Christ. What had they thought as the events unfolded? They couldn’t possibly have imagined their stories would be told and retold thousands of years later.

Doria Pamphili Gallery – This museum is a delight, plain and simple. Housed in a 17th Century palace that’s still owned by a powerful Italian family, it’s packed with treasures. But it it’s the building itself I love. Every inch of the walls and ceilings is covered with frescos, tapestries, and chandeliers. The owners are even said to have roller-skated through it as children, if you can imagine. And the Caravaggios there? The Penitent Mary Magdalene and Rest on the Flight from Egypt are both fine, but not show stoppers in my humble opinion.

Borghese Gallery – Another of Rome’s must-see museums, and it’s home to a whopping six Caravaggios, the largest collection of the artist’s work anywhere. I can’t say the paintings are my favorite, but it’s a gorgeous museum in the middle of a fantastic park.

Basilica di Sant’Agostino – A grand church that’s so conveniently located it’s worth a quick peak. It’s grand, like so many of the churches in Rome, with massive pillars supporting giant red-marble arches and Renaissance paintings everywhere. There’s one Caravaggio here: Madonna di Loreto.

Bonus) Villa Aurora – In Murder in Trastevere, I was lucky enough to arrange a personal (and expensive) tour of this thirty-thousand-square-foot private home. It’s owned by an honest-to-goodness princess. A Texan, actually, who married an Italian prince. There isn’t a royal family in Italy any longer, but somehow this branch managed to hold onto its title. In any event, private tours were once available and visitors like me got to see Caravaggio’s only painting on plaster: Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. It’s painted on the ceiling of a former study and is a breathtaking play on perspective. The villa is up for sale now and can be had for a cool $534 million. Interested? I’ll get you the listing details.

Want to know more? You can read all about my visits to the museums and churches in Murder in Trastevere



The Second Roman Holiday Mystery
Ever composed and always social Faye Masters' perfect life has taken decided downturn. Her husband has left her and a secret revealed is forcing her to sell the building that is not only her home, but the offices of Masterpiece Tours. The worst bit- an elite runner died after attending one of her parties. With odd occurrences and accidents one has to wonder, was Rowena the intended victim, or is someone trying to kill Faye?

MURDER IN TRASTEVERE could have the additional subtitle Keeping Up Appearances (not to be confused with the BBC comedy). Faye does everything in her power to show that she has a wonderful life and executes everything perfectly, whether it's baking amazing delights, picking out better clothing options, or organizing parties and outings for her fellow expats. Faye's not the only one trying to keep up appearances. Stefano, the rich black sheep sent to work as an assistant, Cliff, the former addict, and Esta, the head of DiLorenzo Industries who's slowly being forced out by her nephews.

Faye is an interesting protagonist in that she's not very likeable. She's been in Rome for ten years, but doesn't count any Romans as friends, only the fellow expats. Sure, she has a good relationship with Thomas and Ilaria as well as certain shopkeepers-but she doesn't consider them friends. Her whole know it all, better than thou attitude is off putting. What's unusual is that Faye isn't the protagonist of the first book in the series, Maggie is. In fact, the series was called the Maggie White Mystery series, becoming the Roman Holiday Mystery series in this, the second entry. This switch had me confused until I realized what had happened. This shift of perspective is curious, especially considering Faye's officious behavior.

The mystery in the second Roman Holiday Mystery was complex, with lots of moving parts. Events shifting so at first Rowena seems the obvious victim, then changes so that Faye appears to be the intended target. I enjoyed Faye's quest to see all of Caravaggio's paintings in Rome with her Caravaggio Societa while also learning more about his life. In fact, the detailed descriptions of Rome gave me a delightful armchair vacation.
Part travelog, part art history lesson MURDER IN TRASTEVERE is a complex mystery that shines a light on the eternal city.

 Murder in Trastevere: A Roman Holiday Mystery by Jen Collins Moore

About Murder in Trastevere

Murder in Trastevere: A Roman Holiday Mystery
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Setting - Rome, Italy
Level Best Books (May 18, 2023)
Paperback: ‎ 286 pages

After a decade dominating the expat scene in Rome, Faye Masters has had enough beautiful art, delicious food, and bureaucratic nonsense to last a lifetime. She’s just about decided to pack up and head home when a rival drops dead at one of Faye’s famous cocktail parties. Rumors fly that Faye was the intended target, but the police think Faye might just be an attention-seeking poisoner.

Faye refuses to let the cloud of suspicion stop her from completing a self-imposed 25-picture Caravaggio Challenge. Or keep her from assisting friends Maggie White and Thomas Evans on their painting tours of Rome. But when the leads fizzle out and a series of accidents hit close to home, Faye accepts her own life is on the line. She must search for a killer while keeping up appearances at some of Rome’s most iconic sights.

About Jen Collins Moore

Jen Collins Moore transports readers to Rome in the Roman Holiday Mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly and Masthead: The Best New England Crime Stories. She is president of Sisters in Crime Chicagoland and a founding member of Sleuths and Sidekicks. A transplanted New Englander, she lives in Chicago with her husband and two boys.

Author Links: 

Website www.jennifercollinsmoore.com  

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jencollinsmoore 

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jennifercollinsmoore/  

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