From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes a spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge—set in war-ravaged Tuscany.
1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.
1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.
Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.
An exploration of post-WWII Italy doubles as a murder mystery in this well-crafted novel from Bohjalian (The Sandcastle Girls). In 1952 Florence, Francesca Rosati, a dress-shop worker, is brutally murdered by a killer who carves out her heart, and Detective Serafina Bettini is assigned to solve the homicide. She discovers Francesca had married into the once wealthy and powerful Rosati family, who owned a large estate in the same hills near Florence where Serafina fought as a partisan. The Rosatis, headed by matriarch Beatrice, hosted Nazi officers on their property during the war, breeding deep animosity among the local populace. Serafina's belief that Francesca's murder is linked to this lingering resentment of the family is strengthened after another Rosati is found dead. The investigation leads Serafina back to the former Rosati estate, and she learns that the family's wartime record was more complicated than it appears. Meanwhile, in a series of short chapters, the vengeful serial killer vows to destroy the surviving Rosatis. Bohjalian tips his hand too early as to the killer's identity, but otherwise delivers an entertaining historical whodunit.
Very nice read
Great combination of mystery, history and an Italian travel piece. Nicely drawn characters with WWII and post-war intrigue. I am going to Florence this fall and will look for places mentioned in book. Hope some of them are real!
The Light in the Ruins
Can't put it down.
Good character development.
Another essay on Nazi barbarism.