In Potosí, the richest city in the Western Hemisphere, Inez de la Morada, the bewitching, cherished daughter of the rich and powerful Mayor, mysteriously dies at the convent of Santa Isabella de los Santos Milagros, where she had fled in defiance of her father. It looks as though the girl committed suicide, but Mother Abbess Maria Santa Hilda believes her innocent and has her buried at the convent in sacred ground. Fray Ubaldo DaTriesta, local Commissioner of the Inquisition, has been keeping an eye on the Abbess, who is too “Protestant” for his tastes, and this action may be just what he needs to convince the lazy, cowardly Bishop to punish her.
At the same time, Potosí finds its prosperity threatened. The King of Spain has discovered that the coins the city has been circulating throughout the world are not pure silver and is sending his top prosecutor and the Grand Inquisitor to mete out punishment. With the imminent arrival of the Spanish officials, many have reason to prove their loyalty, and keep hidden the crimes and sins they’ve committed. With her life at stake, Maria Santa Hilda finds herself in a race against time to prove the true cause of Inez’s death, aided by her fellow sisters, a Jesuit priest with a dark secret from his past, and a tomboyish girl who’s run to the convent to avoid an unwanted marriage. Together they will discover that Inez was not the girl she seemed, and that greed has no limits.
Annamaria Alfieri writes with astounding detail, showing an appreciation for the complexities and social nuances of this intriguing time in Latin American history when politicians, religious leaders, and an indigenous people all competed for power and survival in the thin mountain air of the Andes.
SANTIAGO YANA APPROACHED the mine by night. He had climbed the steep, winding path worn smooth over a hundred years by the hooves of llamas and mules and the barely shod feet of thousands of Indians like himself. Up the Cerro Rico in the weak gray light of the waning moon. His barrel chest heaved. He gulped the icy, rarefied air. Below, the great stone-and-stucco city of Potosí sprawled out at the base of this silver mountain, like the train on a Spanish woman’s gown. On the near side of the river, an occasional torch flickered in the yards of the refineries. Across,
"In her vibrant debut thriller, 'City of Silver,' New York writer Annamaria Alfieri resurrects Potosí's 17th-century heyday....Densely brocaded with period detail, "City of Silver" reads like an El Doradan 'Name of the Rose,' all cloistered intrigue and New World decadence; it recalls too Ron Hansen's lyric masterpiece, 'Mariette in Ecstasy,' in which a gorgeous young postulant bewitches her fellow brides of Christ. Yet Alfieri evokes a past, place and people that are altogether sui generis. Her Potosí is replete with virgins and voluptuaries, political rivalries and caste tensions; her stately, wrought-iron prose paces galloping action sequences and intimate exchanges alike; her solution, though lifted wholesale from Umberto Eco, is no less ingenious for it. As both history and mystery, 'City of Silver' glitters."--The Washington Post
"In this nail-biting debut thriller set in 1650 in a little-known Peruvian city where no one is exempt from the wrath of the king and the cruel hand of the Church, an intriguing era in Latin American history comes alive under Alfieri's sure hand. Highly recommended for historical fans."--Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Alfieri effortlessly recreates 17th century Peru in her impressive debut. The author nicely balances action and deduction in a mystery that works as a political thriller as well as a historical whodunit."--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Alfieri's debut is a vividly rendered historical soap opera, replete with political intrigue, church scandal, feuding families, illegitimacy, lovers past and present and women fabulously gowned and jeweled."--Kirkus Reviews
"An engrossing, fast-paced mystery packed full of historical fact illuminates the story but never overshadows it; a great read, highly recommended."--Historical Novel Society