Milan Italy can be a romantic place but it also has a dark and sinister side. Augusto Ghites has been working the mean streets of Milan as a private investigator and he has seen things that would terrify most people. He’s good at what he does, he can talk to ghosts and has the power to relive the ghost’s last moments on Earth. This is a good skill to have as a P. I. but it comes with a hefty price tag.
Augusto is a junkie, his addiction is sniffing the ashes of the dead and this is how he can interact with spirits. Business isn’t exactly booming for his detective agency but he makes enough money to support his addiction. The latest case to come his way is from an old prostitute who wants him to investigate the death of one of her colleagues. It looks like it will be an easy case but there are dark forces at work and Augusto may be in over his head.
Imago Mortis by Samuel Marolla is a hard-boiled occult mystery novel that has the feel of a 1940’s murder mystery. Everything in this book is described beautifully. There are some great scenes of Augusto going to a cemetery to get more ashes to sniff that are so detailed that you feel like you are there with the character. The way his visions are described when he is done sniffing the ashes are horrifying. Samuel Marolla has done a great job of creating some dark imagery that will stick with you when you are done reading.
Reading this book was like looking at a work of art but that was also a bit of a problem. It felt like everything was overly described and not as much detail was put into the story itself. There are pages of descriptions of ghosts, the city of Milan and how Augusto feels about the other characters in the book and his addiction but there wasn’t much action to tie it all together.
All in all though this is a well written book but you get the impression that telling a story wasn’t as important to the author as painting a picture with words. I loved how the city of Milan is like a character in the book. I got the feeling that if the setting was in a different place it would have changed everything. Milan in Imago Mortis can be compared to Maine in a Stephen King book or New Orleans in an Anne Rice book. Meaning the setting is a character as much as the people are characters. This book has enough going for it that I would recommend it, there is some good world building here but it needed a little more suspense.