Blood on the Altar
One Sunday morning in 1993, a 16-year-old girl named Eliza Claps goes missing from a church in the centre of Potenza, Italy. Shortly before her disappearance, Elisa had met Danilo Restivo, a strange local boy with a fetish for cutting women’s hair on the back of buses. Elisa’s family is convinced that Restivo is responsible for their daughter’s disappearance, but he is protected by local big-wigs: by his Sicilian father, by a doctor with links to organised crime, by a priest who had vices of his own. Years went by and Elisa’s family could find only false leads.
It’s 2002, and Restivo is now living in Bournemouth. In November that year, his neighbour is found murdered, with strands of her own hair in her hands. Once again the police are at a loss to pin anything on him. It’s not until 2010, when Elisa’s decomposed body is found in the church where she went missing, that the two cases are linked and Restivo is finally dealt with.
BLOOD ON THE ALTAR combines a gripping true crime case with Jones’ deep understanding of Italian culture – the impunity it offers to the powerful – he so expertly demonstrated in his bestseller: The Dark Heart of Italy.
BLOOD ON THE ALTAR was published on 1st March 2012 by Faber.
“A chapter on the history, languages and flora of Luciana, the province in which Potenza lies, also looks as if it has strayed into the narrative from somewhere else. However, it is so engaging, and so full of curiosity, that it turns out to be one of the book’s highlights, comparable with the account of Jones’s growing friendship with the Claps family. It is a grim story he has chosen to tell, but what lifts it out of simple horror is his passionate, inquisitive entanglement with a country he both loves and despairs of.”
– John Carey, Sunday Times
“More than his credentials as a travel writer, Jones’s faithful obsession to know what happened to Elisa, and to link it to the wider corruption of Silvio Berlusconi’s regime, is what raises his book almost to the same shelf as Peter Robb’s ‘Midnight in Sicily’ and Helen Garner’s ‘Joe Cinque’s Consolation’. It is a terribly good, terribly sad story that probably only Jones, with a foothold in both countries, could have written.”
– Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph (click here for whole review)