Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Atmospheric, well-researched and gripping
on 27 August 2014
This is a rich and well-researched book tracing present-day murders connected to WW2 partisans in Italy. It's a period not often treated in popular fiction, after the fall of Mussolini when Italy was occupied by Germany fighting a losing battle against the slowly advancing Allies. The narrative is split between the `then' story set in 1943-4 told through the diary of a young Italian nurse, and the `now' focalised through the police investigator dealing with the murder of an old man.
The atmosphere and characterisation is generally very good, and Florence - in both the past and present stories - is almost a character in its own right. The plot, too, of what happened during the war, and how events reach forward into the present is emotionally resonant and well-constructed.
With so much that is done well, it's a shame that there are a few niggles that stopped this becoming a 5-star read for me: Grindle generally writes well but she sometimes over-stretches her prose through ill-advised imagery: `Cosimo Grandolo's warning to his wife ran in his head like a hamster on a wheel', `his mobile phone had begun to hop about like a cricket' - which served to tip me out of the story immediately.
The old diary trick to tell the past story has become an over-used device, and this story is told through one of the least interesting characters in the book: usually in dual time-frame novels I tend to prefer the past story to the present, but that surprisingly wasn't the case here as I just didn't warm to Caterina.
More importantly, there is a massive clue to the final outcome given in the pseudonym of one of the characters and it irritated me immensely that Pallioti, an intelligent and cultured officer, failed to identify it despite it being in Dante, one of Florence's own poets. It's a little patronising of the author to assume her readers are ignorant of classical and medieval literature - and if we're not, then we get what is almost a plot spoiler very early on.
These are, though, small niggles rather than deep dissatisfactions. I thought this book was going to be a bit of easy reading, but it's better crafted and researched more deeply than that with some important things to say - recommended.