Synopses & Reviews
From the New York Times
best-selling author of Midwives
and The Sandcastle Girls
comes a spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge — set in war-ravaged Tuscany.
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.
1955: 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.
"Mastering matters subtle and grotesque, Bohjalian combines intricate plotting and bewitching sensuality with historical insight and a profound sense of place to create an exceptional work of suspense rooted in the tragic aberrations of war." Booklist (starred review)
"A mystery that reminds us of the harrowing choices World War II forced on so many. Beautifully structured, written with restrained intensity and suspenseful to the end, this is both a satisfying mystery and a gut-wrenching account of moral dilemma in a time of moral struggle."
People, 4 Stars
"With each book, Bohjalian flexes his literary muscles, crafting a ghost story, historical fiction, and now police procedural....[Bohjalian] is skilled at evoking the sepia-tinged past."
"Dead solid perfect. Bohjalian has written another winner."
Curt Schleier, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"At the heart of a good novel is a good story, and this story is a doozy. Bohjalian expertly weaves together a tale of how the war split Italy between the people who willingly collaborated with the Germans and the ones who did not....Not every author could manage to tell a war story, throw in a serial killer and drop in several interesting romances, but Bohjalian manages."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"The Rosatis' Etruscan burial site, effectively ravaged and exploited by the Germans for its potentially priceless artifacts, becomes the metaphor for the excruciating violations unfolding across the entire continent. Similarly, Bohjalian raises questions about the nature of injustice and the, often, arbitrary codes we deploy in order to keep a firm grasp on right and wrong, good and evil, or hero and villain. The Light in the Ruins offers an engaging story that unspools in such a way as to keep the reader with her nose to the pages long after the light has actually faded."
New York Journal of Books
"The Light in the Ruins elucidates, haunts and raises moral quandaries....Bohjalian's historical re-telling is riveting....A memorable read."
"Thoroughly gripping, beautiful, and astonishingly vengeful, this novel is a heartbreaker. Bohjalian's latest turn to historical fiction is immensely rewarding."
Library Journal (starred review)
"A literary thriller...a soulful why-done-it."
"An exploration of post-WWII Italy doubles as a murder mystery in this well-crafted novel...an entertaining historical whodunit."
"The Light in the Ruins is a riveting re-creation of a time and place long gone, but not forgotten."
About the Author
Chris Bohjalian is the critically acclaimed author of sixteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Sandcastle Girls, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, and Midwives. His novel Midwives was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah's Book Club. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages, and three of his novels have become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers). He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter. Visit him at www.chrisbohjalian.com or on Facebook.