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 was their sanctuary becomes their prison.
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(from Netgalley)
The short review:
Brilliant! Go order this right now. You’re welcome.
The long review:
This story is told in alternating chapters. Some chapters are based in 1943 and others are in 1955. All is set in Italy. Interspersed are short chapters related to the individual who is killing the remaining Rosati family. The main female characters are Serafina and Christina. In 1943, both women are teenagers and in many ways are polar opposites of each other. Christina Rosati is a teenager who has everything to lose due to the ongoing war and Italy’s alliance with Germany. Slipping away is her privileged life as the only daughter of a marchese, along with her very first romance. Unfortunately, this romance is with a German officer. Serafina on the other hand has nothing to lose, because all for her is already lost. Her family has been killed and her only option is to join up with partisan’s fighting against the Nazis, who have been busy pillaging anything of value from Italy, under the guise of being allies.
By 1955, Serafina is a detective and is assigned to a investigate the case of who is gruesomely murdering the Rosatis. Because of this, she meets up with Christina. At this point, both women have more similarities than differences. Both carry the emotional scars that the end of the war brought them and Serafina has the added burden of physical scars from an event that occurred as the German’s were trying to flee Italy.
This story was very intense. It is one of those books that was so suspenseful, I did not want to put it down. I could not read fast enough, yet I didn’t want it to end. This was so well written that I felt every heartache, every scary moment, and at the end, I was surprised at the identity of the killer.
Chris Bohjalian is on my very, very short list of favorite authors. I have discovered that having “favorite” authors can be a double edged sword. Yes, in most instances, books that I have read by a favorite are typically very good. Sometimes though, the level of anticipation and expectation sets the bar so high that I’m not sure the books even have a fair chance to come up to snuff.
Not so with The Light in the Ruins. I thought this was outstanding and was far beyond anything I had expected. Bravo Mr. Bojhalian.
I am grateful to Doubleday Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.
Publish date: July 9, 2013.