“An enthralling amalgam of sex, violence, and scholarship. At the center of the story are the abduction and murder of two reformed prostitute nuns” (Frederick Hammond, Music and Spectacle in Baroque Rome).
In April 1644, two nuns fled Bologna’s convent for reformed prostitutes. A perfunctory archiepiscopal investigation went nowhere, and the nuns were quickly forgotten. By June of the next year, however, an overwhelming stench drew a woman to the wine cellar of her Bolognese townhouse, reopened after a two-year absence—where to her horror she discovered the eerily intact, garroted corpses of the two missing women.
Drawing on over four thousand pages of primary sources, the intrepid Craig A. Monson reconstructs this fascinating history of crime and punishment in seventeenth-century Italy. Along the way, he explores Italy’s back streets and back stairs, giving us access to voices we rarely encounter in conventional histories: prostitutes and maidservants, mercenaries and bandits, along with other “dubious” figures negotiating the boundaries of polite society. Painstakingly researched and breathlessly told, Habitual Offenders will delight historians and true-crime fans alike.
“Monson’s combination of style and substance makes this a thoroughly engaging work to read. His ability to move from the smallest of significant objects, silver-handled forks and scarlet jackets, to examine the struggles for power between the Pope and Europe’s most powerful families is notable, resulting in a work highly enjoyable for academic and lay readers alike.” —Women’s History
“Monson delivers cut-to-the-quick truths about survival strategies for individuals and families, both great and small, caught in networks from Bologna, through Venice and papal Rome, reaching as far as Mazarin and the king of France.” —Alison K. Frazier, author of Possible Lives: Authors and Saints in Renaissance Italy