Top positive review
Thriller set in Italy
on 23 February 2011
This is a thriller with a realistic Italian background, although as first published in 2003 there are a couple of points that remove it from the 21C and the Italy that we know. The lira is no longer the currency and the wave of immigrants, although still a big problem, as I expect many of you reading this are aware, will often be of different nationalities to those featured. The depth of description of the ex-pat community in Florence reminds me in some ways of A Room With A View, although this is much more detailed and not set in 1908 but modern days. The author clearly knows and loves Florence and is not afraid to write about the drugs, corruption and prostitution that are part of the city and I suppose most big cities in the world these days. As far as I understand though Florence is not generally a dangerous place, just maybe a bit rough around the edges. She also describes beautifully the countryside outside Florence, in Tuscany and the Maremma, including Thermal Springs to be found in the countryside that I have enjoyed bathing in myself if not the particular ones described.
A week in the springtime in Florence, what could be a better way for Gina Donovan to unwind from the pressures of family life while visiting an old friend from university. Gina's holiday turns out to be not at all the week of relaxation that she was anticipating as through her we meet the motley cast of characters that form part of the expat community. The main ones are Jane her university friend, who runs a cookery school, her successful architect husband Niccolo who has English and Italian parentage plus his daughter Beatrice. The aristocratic Frances a widow in her seventies is a character central to the story as is her Birthday party that is planned for the end of the week. Frank is the journalist within the community, although not a terribly successful one and young Ned, Beatrice's boyfriend.
The plot is complex with many other characters besides the few I have mentioned. Within the first few pages we learn of the two murders but it is only the second body that is discovered immediately. Before the end of the week not only death but love,memories and secrets will all have intruded on Gina's time in Italy. I think that is enough information to have tempted you if you like the sound of a murder mystery in an Italian setting. There is enough suspense skilfully built into the story that kept me turning the pages to make this a very quick and entertaining read.