Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the acclaimed national bestseller Amagansett
comes an even more remarkable novel set in the Tuscan hills: the story of two murders, four hundred years apart and the ties that bind them together.
Adam Banting, a somewhat aimless young scholar at Cambridge University, is called to his professor's office one afternoon and assigned a special summer project: to write a scholarly monograph about a famous garden built in the 1500s. Dedicated to the memory of Signor Docci's dead wife, the garden is a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. But during his three-week sojourn at the villa, Adam comes to suspect that clues to a murder are buried in the strange iconography of the garden: the long-dead Signor Docci most likely killed his wife and filled her memorial garden with pointers as to both the method and the motive of his crime.
As the mystery of the garden unfolds, Adam finds himself drawn into a parallel intrigue. Through his evolving relationship with the lady of the house the ailing, seventy-something Signora Docci he finds clues to yet another possible murder, this one much more recent. The signora's eldest son was shot by Nazi officers on the third floor of the villa, and her husband, now dead, insisted that the area be sealed and preserved forever. Like the garden, the third-floor rooms are frozen in time. Delving into his subject, Adam begins to suspect that his summer project might be a setup. Is he really just the naive student, stumbling upon clues, or is Signora Docci using him to discover for herself the true meaning of the villa's murderous past?
"Two murders committed 400 years apart form the core of British author Mills's outstanding second novel (after Amagansett, which won a CWA Dagger Award). In 1958, Cambridge undergraduate Adam Strickland, who's studying a curious Tuscan Renaissance garden for his art history thesis, is equally intrigued by both the garden of the Villa Docci estate and its elderly owner, Signora Francesca Docci. Built by the villa's first owner, Federico Docci, in 1577, the garden was intended as a memorial to his wife, Flora, who died when she was only 25. In the course of his research, Adam begins to sense that events, both past and present, are not as clear-cut as they appear. In particular, he discovers that there are several versions of the death of Signora Docci's oldest son, Emilio, who was shot by the villa's German occupiers at the end of WWII. Adam is hailed by all when he comes up with a novel theory explaining Flora's death in 1548, but when he begins to speculate on Emilio's demise, he finds himself in serious danger. This engrossing literary novel, like Amagansett, deserves to be a bestseller." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A murder puzzle wrapped around a literary deconstruction grounded in a perceptive study of seduction and survival. Sublime." Kirkus Reviews
"Mills follows his debut novel...with another deftly plotted and suspenseful tale full of entertaining characters and set in a marvelously sensual locale. Readers who enjoyed his first book will not be disappointed. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"This sort of jumping between historical and contemporary crimes has become commonplace...in highbrow literary thrillers, but Mills uses the technique effectively....[T]here is plenty here to captivate those who like high culture mixed with high crime (fans of Iain Pears, for example)." Booklist
Set in the Tuscan hills, this new work by the bestselling author of Amagansett is the story of two murders, 400 years apart and the ties that bind them.
Young Cambridge scholar Adam Banting is in Tuscany, assigned to write a scholarly monograph about the famous Docci gardena mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. As his research deepens, Adam comes to suspect that buried in the gardens strange iconography is the key to uncovering a long-ago murder. But the ancient house holds its own secrets as well. And as Adam delves into his subject, he begins to suspect that he is being used to discover the true meaning of the villas murderous past.
About the Author
Mark Mills is a screenwriter whose first novel, Amagansett, was published in a dozen countries and received the British Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award. A graduate of Cambridge University, he lives in Oxford with his wife and two children.