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"A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies ... Murder in Matera is a gem." - San Francisco Chronicle

"Tantalizing" - NPR

"A thrilling detective story ... Stapinski pursues the study of her family's criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results." - Library Journal

A writer 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.

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.

About the Author

Helene Stapinski

Helene Stapinski grew up in Jersey City, NJ, captured in her best selling memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, which was made into a documentary. Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair with Music traces her time playing drums in a rock band on the Lower East Side. Her most recent book, Murder in Matera, takes her to Southern Italy, where she uncovers a 145-year-old family murder. Stapinski got her start at her hometown newspaper, worked as a radio DJ and news director in Alaska, has taught at Fordham University and NYU, her alma mater, has lectured at Columbia University, where she received her MFA, and has appeared on the Moth main stage, on NPR and the Today Show. She writes regularly for The New York Times and has been published in New York magazine, Salon.com, Travel & Leisure, Real Simple and dozens of other magazines, newspapers and web sites. Her work has been included in several anthologies, including Drinking Diaries: Women Tell Their Stories Straight Up. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Wendell Jamieson, their two teenage children and their dog, Blue.

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