August 5, 2014
One of the most thoughtful participants on the “historical mysteries” panel at the Deadly Ink conference, which I attended this past weekend, was Annamaria Alfieri, whose first novel, City of Silver, has a very proud place on the Felonious list. City is set in 17th-century Peru, and after two more forays into South America, Alfieri has now begun writing about British East Africa in the period just before World War I. She clearly has a jones for days gone by.
And for unusual settings – none of your Victorian London, villainous Nazis, or Regency-era rakehells, thank you very much. What on earth had compelled her to write a novel set in Potosi, a city that may once have been the largest and wealthiest on earth (true!) but that no one today has ever heard of? The answer lies in a similar question: Alfieri and her husband were traveling in the mountains of South America, and a guide took them to what he said was once the region’s most spectacular convent, home to the wealthiest of cloistered Spanish noblewomen. Alfieri’s husband was confounded. “This place is barren rock,” he said, “a zillion feet above sea level, and a jillion miles from Spain. It might as well be the far side of the moon. Why would a rich Spanish noblewoman join a convent here?”
The question lodged in Alfieri’s head like an earworm; she couldn’t shake it. And eventually she answered it by creating six nuns at the Petosi convent, each of whom had a different reason for having chosen the far side of the moon.
Want the answer? This week only, you can get it cheap: 25% off on the mesmerizing City of Silver.
Want to learn more about the book? See also our two-part video interview with Anamaria Alfieri.