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Flowers Over the Inferno: A Times Crime Book of the Month - a bone-chilling thriller set in the Italian Alps (A Teresa Battaglia thriller) Hardcover – 7 Feb 2019
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Superintendent Teresa Battaglia, a criminal profile expert, is in her sixties, overweight, lonely, diabetic, full of the ailments of ageing - and delightful. It's rare that such a character enters crime fiction for the first time, and with such gripping impact. (Marcel Berlins, The Times)
Creepy and evocative... but what gives this novel particular appeal is the sixty-something central character, whose abrasive manner hides a warm heart (Guardian)
This book has all the right ingredients: a brilliant protagonist, an eerie setting and a community hiding dark secrets (Dead Good (Debut crime novels to watch out for in 2019))
Superintendent Teresa Battaglia is an Italian cop in her mid-sixties and as such a rather unique character in crime fiction where the leading protagonists are normally younger. She's overweight, diabetic and has been saddled with a new, younger sidekick, city inspector Massimo Marini which whom she initially doesn't hit it off too well despite all his own goodwill. A naked man with his eyes gouged out is found in an isolated forest and the two conflicting cops are assigned the case, which inevitably becomes so much more complicated when echoes from the past swiftly intervene in the investigation. The first volume in an Italian trilogy with these two characters proves a fast, enjoyable read with all the right police procedural elements, monsters in plain sight and even killers who might intriguingly provoke some form of sympathy amongst the reader, a clockwork plot and a suitable sense of place which verges on both the ominous and the exotic, this was a major hit back in its own country and one understands why. Impeccable crime writing. (Crime Time)
If you are looking for a chilling murder mystery set in a landscape so majestic that it takes your breath away and fills your soul, head off to the Alps with the intriguing Detective Superintendent Teresa Battaglia, an Italian police chief who is set to give Tyneside's Vera a run for her money... Flowers Over the Inferno is Ilaria Tuti's stunning and atmospheric debut novel - translated into English by the talented Ekin Olap - and the first book in the Teresa Battaglia trilogy. Tuti lives in Friuli, in the far north-east of Italy, and she has harnessed all the harsh, wild beauty of this mountainous region near the border with Austria for a bone-chilling story of dark crimes and hidden evils festering in a small, claustrophobic community... Tuti's fast-paced, taut and gripping thriller has more than a touch of creepy Gothic as the Alpine scenery becomes the jaw-dropping stage set for a gruesome murder mystery where nature is red in tooth and claw, and a deadly menace threatens to engulf a village with too many destructive secrets... The battling Teresa Battaglia is the undoubted star of the show, a charming enigma who fills the pages with her compassion, good sense, empathy and tenacity but who can put a person in their place with either a look or a word... Her crusty sarcasm and razor sharpness hides a lonely, fast-ageing woman who refuses to surrender to her mental and physical vulnerabilities and instead uses every ounce of her determination and inner strength to fight on... Exciting, ice-coated, chilling and thrilling, Flowers Over the Inferno welcomes readers to the deepest, darkest shades of Italian Noir. (Lancashire Post)
In the seclusion of a cloistered location in the Italian Alps, bloody violence is being done... Ilaria Tuti - who lives in the far north-east of Italy - has produced in Flowers over the Inferno a debut novel of real skill. While the mechanics of the plot itself may be familiar territory, the real accomplishment here lies in the distinctive heroine, with the beleaguered Teresa not just engaged in a struggle with a ruthless killer but also with her own body, as age and diabetes take their toll, and even put her once impeccable memory under strain. It is this dual struggle that gives the book its real impetus. (European Literature Network)
Ilaria Tuti's Flowers Over the Inferno is a stunning debut; a deliciously dark and action-packed thriller that is also deeply moving, even profound. With a heroine unlike any other and a beautifully crafted sense of place, Tuti's gorgeous prose paints a compelling portrait of a small Alpine town's secrets and the woman tasked with uncovering them. I loved this book (Karen Dionne, internationally bestselling author of HOME)
Tuti has managed the near impossible in creating a genuinely unique character in Teresa Battaglia. I was rooting for her from the start as she expertly steers a creepy murder investigation in an atmospheric Alpine setting (Sarah Ward, author of IN BITTER CHILL)
I loved Flowers Over the Inferno with its beautifully creepy setting - and I totally fell for the tough-but-vulnerable detective, Teresa Battaglia. Great to see an older woman in this role. (Roz Watkins, author of THE DEVIL'S DICE)
Teresa Battaglia is one of the most interesting detectives to emerge in recent years; flawed but full of heart, sarcastic yet still commanding loyalty from her team. Flowers Over The Inferno is an astonishing debut. (M. W. Craven, author of THE PUPPET SHOW)
THERE'S A MONSTER LURKING IN THESE WOODS...
An idyllic village in the Alps. A legacy of sin. An evil hiding in the shadows.
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I am always looking for an interesting series to get stuck into.
I hope this carries on to be a series of stories sbout Theresa
I am intrigued to see how she copes with her illness snd
This story stayed in my mind long after I finished reading it.
That is the mark of a great story well written
Looking forward to the next instalments.
There is so much to enjoy about this book if you are a fan of the Euro-crime genre. Firstly, and probably the strongest aspect of this book, are the main detective duo. Teresa Battaglia is a really refreshing change to the standard grumpy male or feisty, young, ambitious female detectives you find carrying these stories. A woman of middle years, not beautiful, not thrusting, not particularly stand out in any way except through her intellect, her dedication to her job and the devotion she inspires in her team. I absolutely loved her, and was willing to follow her through whatever ups and downs she might face throughout the novel. She is brutal and forthright in her opinions, no nonsense, dedicated. She has personal issues, health issues, issues with relationships, but battles all these quietly and with dignity to get the job done.
She also does not suffer fools gladly, which appears to be a problem when she gets a new, young, male wet-behind-the-ears inspector to add to her team. To begin with there is the usual chalk and cheese friction between the two, but this has the makings of a great partnership for future books and the two will find that their differences can be an asset, as they have lots to learn from each other.
There is a great supporting cast for this book, but these two carry the book, along with the third standout star of the novel, which is the setting. Forget Scandi-noir, here we have Italy as a back drop for the drama, but not the picturesque coastal towns of Amalfi or Sorrento or Portofino; not the glamorous cities of Rome or Venice or Florence; not the rural beauty of Tuscany or the Italian Lakes. This is the remote, forgotten, mountainous area on the Italian-Austrian border which very rarely has the literary spotlight shone upon it. This author, however, obviously has a great fondness for the region, she brings it vividly to life throughout the book, illuminating the forests, gorges, peaks, rivers and isolated villages making the landscape an integral part of the story, a character in its own right.
The setting of this book is what gives it its atmosphere, and that atmosphere is deeply claustrophobic and unsettling. This is a place cut off from the outside world to a large degree. They are insular, superstitious and extremely suspicious of outsiders. Protective of their community and any perceived external threat, they close ranks and shut out interlopers, protecting their secrets, even if that means protecting a serial killer from the police. This makes the investigation more complicated, and the diplomatic skills of Teresa Battaglia vital to crack the case. The area is sparsely populated, mountainous, heavily wooded, large areas unexplored or long forgotten. The intrusion of the modern world into this ancient wilderness, upsetting the dynamics unchanged for centuries, is one of the fascinating themes of the book and adds to the air of menace and threat.
The case itself is gruesome and deeply disturbing. It is hard to say too much about it without including any spoilers in the review, but there are links to unpleasant echoes of a unedifying era of the area’s past. Some aspects of the book are quite graphic and upsetting, but the plot is completely gripping from start to finish and the reader will find it very hard to break away from the story without finding out what happens. I am still thinking about the plot, even now the book is finished and I have moved on to my next read. There are some moral questions raised in the book that will get you thinking more deeply than is often the case in a standard crime novel, a deeper dimension to the narrative.
The book is written from a few different perspectives, in a variety of time periods, and through different mediums, such as diary entries. As it hops around quite a lot, I did find it tricky to keep up in places. Some of this was due to the way my review copy was formatted on my Kindle I think, but I do believe that this is one of those odd books that would be more easily and enjoyably read in physical format, rather than on an e-reader. Fortuitously, this is also a book where I would suggest that the story is worth the investment in an actual book. This was something new and different and interesting din would highly recommend it. A brave new voice in the crime genre.
Along the way, whilst the investigation is proceeding in the present with the body count rising, we travel back to the past, to Austria in the 70s where there is something a bit hinky going on in a hospital where there are several cots containing babies, it's all a bit hush hush and the staff is sworn to secrecy. What connection this can have to the present is not found out until later...
It's hard to say much more about the plot without giving too much away but I can say that it gripped me hard, right from the start. Unlike a lot of books these days, the author does not resort to any of the cheap tricks employed to dupe readers along the way. Making this even more of a breath of fresh air.
The setting is also magnificent, as I often say in reviews it could also be considered a character in its own right so instrumental it is to what is going on around.
Characterisation is also spot on. Again it's hard to say too much for fear of spoilers but the strength of the characters really did bring the plot to life. Especially when dealing with some of the emotions that were front and centre along the way. There's a fair bit of humour interspersed throughout which redresses the balance and prevents the book from getting too dark.
All in all a good solid read which I thoroughly enjoyed. Looking for ward to meeting up with Teresa again in the next book. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.