Like Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf in Highsmith’s best-known novel, the central characters in The Bishop’s Bedroom orbit one another like ballroom doppelgängers until it’s difficult to tell who is lying to whom or why ... As Orimbelli decides at one point: 'The earth, like life, can be measured in triangles.' But when this novel reaches its somewhat inconclusive (criminologically speaking) conclusion, one might well add: Measured, O.K., maybe. But understood? Not quite ... Everything the three principal characters have told us sounds equally unreliable. Eventually, there’s a murder, and when the 'solution' finally arrives, it’s impossible to accept at face value or feel that it resolves any of the conflicts brought into the open by a woman’s death. This is a strong, well-written and weirdly seductive little novel about enjoying the small pleasures of life on your own little boat — or pretending that you can live apart from the world you think you’re simply observing, dispassionately, from way up there in 'the bishop’s bedroom.'
The Bishop’s Bedroom is a compact novel that is rich in atmosphere. Chiara explores themes of greed, lust, and power and wraps them in a little murder mystery. The settings are engrossing, from the villages to the house to the islands of Lake Maggiore, Italy. Though the murder mystery aspect takes time to begin—odd in this brief novel—it is well worth the patience.
The Bishop's Bedroom is a bit of a mystery -- there's a death, and, for a while, it's unclear whether it was suicide or murder, but the how-dunnit resolution is not exactly top-tier mystery plotting and writing -- but that's almost only incidental. It's mainly about atmosphere, and the dark -- and/or empty -- layers to Orimbelli and the narrator (with Angelo thrown in for good, if very odd, measure), their murky pasts and unmoored presents ... It makes for a reasonably engaging dark story, certainly livened up by the dramatic deaths that take place, and with a nice melancholy-gloomy shading throughout ... But the pacing is a bit off -- they spend an awful lot of time sailing, under various conditions, and the arrangements with their changing cast of female companions are rather more detailed, boring, and sordid than need be ... Chiara has his talents, but lacks the mystery-writer's finesse with suspense and resolution. The narrator's occasional odd, too-certain pronouncements...also contrast oddly with his general uncertainty about events and people, as the narrative finds itself a bit too often just slightly off-key.