Murder in Matera
Since childhood, Helene Stapinski heard lurid tales about her great-great-grandmother, Vita. In Southern Italy, she was a loose woman who had murdered someone. Immigrating to America with three children, she lost one along the way. Helene's youthful obsession with Vita deepened as she grew up, eventually propelling the journalist to Italy, where, with her own children in tow, she pursued the story, determined to set the record straight. Finding answers would take Helene ten years and numerous trips to Basilicata, the rural "instep" of Italy's boot--a mountainous land rife with criminals, superstitions, old-world customs, and desperate poverty. Though false leads sent her down blind alleys, Helene's dogged search, aided by a few lucky--even miraculous--breaks and a group of colorful local characters, led her to the truth. Yes, the family tales she'd heard were true: there had been a murder in Helene's family, a killing that roiled 1870s Italy. But the identities of the killer and victim weren't who she thought they were. In revisiting events that happened more than a century before, Helene came to another stunning realization--she wasn't who she thought she was, either. Weaving Helene's own story of discovery with the tragic tale of Vita's life, Murder in Matera is a literary whodunit and a moving tale of self-discovery that brings into focus a long ago tragedy in a little-known region remarkable for its stunning sunny beauty and dark buried secrets.Helene Stapinski goes deep into the heart of Italy to unravel a century-old family mystery in this spellbinding memoir that blends the suspenseful twists of Making a Murderer and the emotional insight of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels.Weaving Helene’s own story of discovery with the tragic tale of Vita’s life, Murder in Matera is a literary whodunit and a moving tale of self-discovery that brings into focus a long ago tragedy in a little-known region remarkable for its stunning sunny beauty and dark buried secrets.

Murder in Matera Details

TitleMurder in Matera
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseMay 23rd, 2017
PublisherDey Street Books
ISBN006243845X
ISBN-139780062438454
Number of pages320 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Crime, True Crime, History, Biography

Murder in Matera Review

  • Book Riot Community
    May 24, 2017
    Stapinski grew up in a family of thieves in Chicago – but they weren’t the only relatives who may have broken the law. Growing up, she heard that her Italian grandmother had murdered someone before moving to America. Stapinski’s interest in her grandmother’s story only deepened as an adult, and over the years and several trips to Italy, she uncovered long-buried secrets that she then turned into this wonderful historical whodunit/family memoir. Makes you wonder about your own grandmother…Backlis Stapinski grew up in a family of thieves in Chicago – but they weren’t the only relatives who may have broken the law. Growing up, she heard that her Italian grandmother had murdered someone before moving to America. Stapinski’s interest in her grandmother’s story only deepened as an adult, and over the years and several trips to Italy, she uncovered long-buried secrets that she then turned into this wonderful historical whodunit/family memoir. Makes you wonder about your own grandmother…Backlist bump: Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History by Helene Stapinski (One of my favorite memoirs!)Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/listen/shows/allt...
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  • Nina
    April 17, 2017
    Disclaimer: I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.From the opening paragraph, I was hooked. Stapinski combines her training as a journalist with years of hearing an incomplete family story about a murder to write her exploration of family roots. It’s difficult to pigeonhole this book into any specific genre. It is heavily memoir, with elements of travelogue, investigative reporting, criminal thriller, and creative imagining thrown in. She comes from a long line of storytellers, and, conce Disclaimer: I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.From the opening paragraph, I was hooked. Stapinski combines her training as a journalist with years of hearing an incomplete family story about a murder to write her exploration of family roots. It’s difficult to pigeonhole this book into any specific genre. It is heavily memoir, with elements of travelogue, investigative reporting, criminal thriller, and creative imagining thrown in. She comes from a long line of storytellers, and, concerned over the possibility of inherited criminal genes, was determined to get to the bottom of this particular story. Stapinski’s writing is conversational, full of rich details and explanations of Italian culture. She uses an interesting technique of interspersing chapters about life in southern Italy during the 1800s, which is the time period of the alleged murder. These sections read like a novel, using Stapinski’s relatives as the main characters. There were no journals or letters, so Stapinski weaves meticulous research with the handed-down stories, and forms her own descriptions of life in the Basilicata region of Italy. It takes several trips to Italy, and hiring researchers and translators, but Stapinski does eventually untangle the mystery.
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  • Nissa
    April 26, 2017
    I adore Italy (I come from an Italian family) and very much enjoyed reading this book which combines history/mystery with the author's own personal experiences. A well written and very interesting read. If you like Italian history, this book is for you. I won a copy of this book from the publisher.
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  • Ivy Pittman
    June 1, 2017
    This was not the type of story that I expected to become so attached. But from the first page I could not put it down. It was as if I was traveling with Helene on a quest to help solve an intricate puzzle. If I did not know this was a true story it could very well be a top rate suspense.
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  • Jamie Canaves
    April 8, 2017
    A true crime/memoir that takes you to Italy in the 1800s and modern day as Stapinski tries to unravel a family mystery. Stapinski had grown up hearing a story about her great-great-grandmother Vita that ended with her committing murder and immigrating to the U.S. Stapinski had always worried that somehow this one person in her family had passed down something that created criminals throughout the generations, but she really didn’t know enough about Vita because the story had been told word-of-mo A true crime/memoir that takes you to Italy in the 1800s and modern day as Stapinski tries to unravel a family mystery. Stapinski had grown up hearing a story about her great-great-grandmother Vita that ended with her committing murder and immigrating to the U.S. Stapinski had always worried that somehow this one person in her family had passed down something that created criminals throughout the generations, but she really didn’t know enough about Vita because the story had been told word-of-mouth. So Stapinski sets off to uncover the true story of who her great-great-grandmother really was. Told in parts as memoir as Stapinski travels to Italy to uncover the truth, and in parts as an imagining of Vita’s life (by Stapinski, based on research and how she would have felt), this is a really interesting read from the look at Southern Italy in the 1800s to the truth uncovered about Vita’s life.--from Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: Tess Gerritsen Q&A, International Crime Thrillers, & More
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  • Martha
    May 1, 2017
    I was drawn in and hungry to turn every page of "Murder in Matera". I read with my phone next to me looking up names and photos of: cities, and coastal water near the insert of the boot in southern Italy, foods and wines that were made in southern Italy, songs that were sung to small children, translated Italian words and phrases. I wanted to know about the murder that took place around 1865.
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  • Ken
    April 16, 2017
    I did enjoy this book and felt the author resolved a great void in her life. While everyone doesn’t share that specific question, or neurosis, we all have questions about heredity, especially in America where we are all immigrants. The melting pot that removed the Native Americans is such a complex conglomerate of cultures we each face our own genetic mysteries. My only critique lies in a confusion of what were fact and what was conjecture. The conclusion of how much our ancestors endured to bri I did enjoy this book and felt the author resolved a great void in her life. While everyone doesn’t share that specific question, or neurosis, we all have questions about heredity, especially in America where we are all immigrants. The melting pot that removed the Native Americans is such a complex conglomerate of cultures we each face our own genetic mysteries. My only critique lies in a confusion of what were fact and what was conjecture. The conclusion of how much our ancestors endured to bring our linage to America is to be applauded. Helene Strapinski, thank you for sharing your journey with us.Ken Givens
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  • Cheryl D
    April 30, 2017
    Like an amazing Italian feast, Stapinski, serves up food in the form of words that feed the heart and soul. Rich, red "gravy" spills throughout the pages while sentences with the complexity of a fine wine are drunk through hungry eyes eager to find out more. And like great meals everywhere the talk and the food at the table produces discoveries throughout the night just like this wonderful book. You'll love this story of one brave woman and the19th century Italy who feed her more than just food. Like an amazing Italian feast, Stapinski, serves up food in the form of words that feed the heart and soul. Rich, red "gravy" spills throughout the pages while sentences with the complexity of a fine wine are drunk through hungry eyes eager to find out more. And like great meals everywhere the talk and the food at the table produces discoveries throughout the night just like this wonderful book. You'll love this story of one brave woman and the19th century Italy who feed her more than just food.* I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. Thank you Goodreads and HarperCollins Publishing for this treat!*
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  • Cheryl
    April 30, 2017
    I won this book on goodreads. Since she was 4 Helene , has heard of lurid tales about her great-great grandmother Vita a loose woman back in Italy before she came to American. Helene is gripped by the stories Helene spends a decade searching for the truth, making several trips to Italy before finding the answers.
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