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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
The Villa Triste
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

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.
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on 18 June 2017
So glad I found this book! Was almost holding my breath towards the end, rattling thorough the pages and at the same time not wanting it to end.
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on 3 September 2017
Evocative and beautifully written. Hard to put down even for work preparation!
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on 9 May 2014
This is a book about World War 2 with a difference. Buy it, read it, enjoy it. I did very much.
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on 4 May 2014
At times it was a good read but a but too convoluted and by the end could barely stay awake to read the final few chapters. A real shame as it seemed to have so much potential.
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VINE VOICEon 20 July 2010
The Villa Triste (Gestapo HQ in Florence) is set in war torn Italy and in the present day. The central characters are 2 sisters, Isabella and Caterina. The novel opens in 1943 with Caterina having a fitting for her wedding dress, looking forward to the future. Then the armistice with the Allies is signed and lives are changed forever with the occupation of Italy by the Germans. Both sisters become involved with the Partisans and it is something that happens during this time that leads to the present day events.

In the present day an old man is found shot through the back of the head, with the murderer also leaving a 'calling card' Allessandro Pallioti, one of Italy's most senior policemen is overseeing the murder investigation, the victim was a Partisan, one of the few remaining. Pallioti finds a red notebook, a journal written by Caterina which details her experiences and through which we gradually learn about her family's link to the Partisan's and their ultimate fates. Sections of this journal appear throughout the novel as Palliotti reads it and the reader is slowly fed clues to solve the murders and work out the connections. Having said that the ending still came as a surprise as with all good crime novels some facts are held back.

This is a fascinating and moving account of this period in Italy's history, and I have to admit that it is period I know very little about but I am now tempted to look for a non-fiction account. It is beautifully written and I really did care about the characters.

If you have read and enjoyed Helen Dunmore's 'The Siege' and 'The Betrayal', 'Alone in Berlin' by Hans Fallada or 'Winter in Madrid' by C J Sansom then I think this book should appeal to you.
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on 20 October 2012
Absolutely brilliant book. Excellent story and characters and written really well. I was lost in it the whole time and it gripped me right to the end. This is the second book I have read by this author and both have been just as good. I definitely want to read more by her.
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on 10 January 2013
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and apart from losing track of the Italian names it was intriguing and informative at the same time. The bravery of ordinary citizens during wartime was breathtaking. The story drew me in and I couldn't wait to discover the reason for the crimes.
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on 24 November 2012
I was drawn in to the story straight away.It has a good pace,characters I liked and a really good twist to the ending.
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This is a really excellent detective cum historical thriller. It is set in present day Florence interspersed with scenes and diary excerpts from the war. The book starts in wartime Florence and we meet the two Cammaccio sisters and their family. Italy has just capitulated to the allies and the Cammaccios realise that liberation from the Fascists may not be immediate and that they will be at the mercy of the Nazis before the Allies can arrive. It becomes apparent that the sisters are very different in character. The action then switches to modern day Florence. A man has been murdered in a symbolic execution that possibly harks back to his war time activities. Senior detective Alessandro Pallioti is in charge of the investigation. We follow the twists and turns of the investigation in parallel with the wartime story.

The complex plot is very well handled. The characters are not stereotypes so it is not easy to guess how they will behave. The partisans appear to be both heroic and flawed. There could have been betrayal or bad luck. Somebody could have been a traitor or just careless. As he discovers more about the first and then the second victim's backgrounds, Palliotti becomes involved with the past. There are no great revelations to help him. Information is patchy, incomplete and misleading.

Towards the end I began to guess what had happened, but I could have been wrong.

It was a very satisfying read that kept me involved and entertained on a cold windy day. I think it would have also worked on a fine day at the beach.
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