Books I love: “Murder in Matera” by Helene Stapinski

Murder in Matera review

“Murder in Matera” has all the ingredients of a captivating story: Basilicata, Italy as the backdrop, an ancient murder mystery, and family secrets. What’s even better about the Audible version is that the author herself reads her family’s captivating tale.

What is “Murder in Matera” about?

Helene Stapinski’s Italian family history is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. As the story goes, her great great grandmother Vita Gallitelli killed a man in Italy and fled to America with her two young sons in tow, without her husband. Who did Vita kill and why? Is Vita a cold blooded murderess, or was the murder merely a consequence of self-defense?

With two young children of her own, Helene becomes determined to get to the bottom of her family mystery because after all, her grandfather Beansie also led a life of crime and she fears it might be a genetic trait that could be passed onto her children. To unravel the mystery of her family’s ancient crime, she crosses the Atlantic to Basilicata. On her quest for the truth she digs through archives, chats with the locals, and researches local history, but the truth she uncovers isn’t what she expected.

Why should you read “Murder in Matera”?

if you love Italy

This is a book every Italophile should read (or listen to on Audible). You’ll learn about Italian history in a way that keeps you turning the pages, especially about 19th century Italy during unification and life in the southern region of Basilicata.

if you love memoirs/true stories

I love a great memoir, especially if Italy is the backdrop. There is something so powerful about a true story, especially when it involves “passion, family, and forgiveness” like this one.

if you love mysteries

Getting to the bottom of this 19th century murder took a lot of perseverance & determination on the author’s part over a decade of research. Eventually with the help of a 600 page 19th century crime report, the author is able to accurately re-create her family’s page-turning mystery. (I seriously couldn’t stop listening!)

if you want to be inspired

Near the end of the story I was in tears, a sweet release of empathy and admiration of human resiliency. It made my modern day troubles and frustrations like a slow internet connection seem minuscule and inconsequential. I have never gone to bed with a belly aching of hunger, only the discomfort of frivolous overindulgence. It gives me faith that however turbulent the state of the world seems, each generation has life a little easier…and that is the gift of the grit, determination, and sacrifices of our ancestors. This story moved me in powerful ways.

if you’ve ever wondered: “does my family history matter?”

Every family has drama, trauma, and even secrets. The question is, how does that affect our lives in the present? I am convinced from personal experience that our family’s history is etched into our DNA and subconsciously affects our present. Researching my family history for Italian dual citizenship has uncovered some family secrets and traumas, and bringing these to light have been so healing. This book will definitely inspire you to dig into your family’s past and become more connected to your roots.

Brava Irene Stapinski! Thank you for sharing your family’s deeply moving story with the world.

Have you read “Murder in Matera” yet? If not, here’s where you can get your own print copy on Amazon or audio version on Audible!

(If you feel inspired by this post to read “Murder in Matera,” I would appreciate so much if you support my blog by using one of the affiliate links above! If you’re not already a member of Audible, you can get a free 30 day trial, just be sure to cancel your subscription before then if you don’t wish to continue! Audible is one of my favorite monthly investments because it makes commuting more interesting and I can “read” a lot more books than I would be able to otherwise!)

Although this book is in English, here are some Italian words related to the themes of the story! (Any opportunity to practice Italian, right?!)

immigrati/immigrazione/immigrare ~ immigrants/immigration/immigrate

un giallo (misterioso omicidio) ~ a murder mystery

albero genealogico ~ family tree

avo italiano ~ Italian ancestor

origini italiane ~ Italian roots

resilienza ~ resiliency

perdono ~ forgiveness

Thank you for reading!

xo Kelly






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Ciao, I'm Kelly!

Welcome to my adventures in learning Italian, often while cooking authentic Italian recipes and wine tasting! I love discovering the traditional regional cuisine of Italy and trying to recreate those dishes when I'm back home in the US. I'm also on my way to becoming an Italian citizen through jure sanguinis (by ancestry).

WSET Level 2 Certified Wine Blogger


Join me for a virtual "aperitivo chat" to get exclusive updates on my Italian progress, dual citizenship journey, plus food & wine adventures in the Bel Paese and beyond!

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2 years ago

I am LOVING this book series, I hadn’t heard of this one before but will happily add it to my ever-growing list πŸ˜€

LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia

You and Jasmine are feeding my book addiction something fierce!!

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