During WWII, when Mussolini’s Italy is an ally of Hitler’s Germany, not all Italians are fascists, but they all have to choose sides, and whether they should fight or just quietly wait out the war.
Survival is a precarious thing: If you help the Germans, you will be punished by the partisans; if you help the partisans, you’ll pay dearly from the hands of the Germans. So it is a no win-win situation. Which is exactly what the main characters, the Rosatis, experience.
The Rosati family, the aristocrats living in a villa near Florence, welcome the Nazi officers who express an interest in the historical and artistic value of their estate. The Nazis collect art from all the occupied territories in order to keep it “safe.” The Rosatis know better than to believe them, but they are caught between a rock and a hard place. The father cooperates with the Germans in order to secure his family’s well-being. Two sons collaborate with them because they are conscripted. An eighteen-year-old daughter, Cristina, falls in love with a German officer, frequenting the villa.
However, despite their amicable relationship with the allies, the Rosatis fail to avoid misfortune. The home that used to be their sanctuary eventually becomes their prison. Terrible acts of violence befall them during the war.
A decade later, the war echoes, and it echoes horribly. Someone is after the family, killing one, then another, cutting out their hearts, threatening to finish them all off. In fact, the book starts with the killer’s chilling account of the first murder, and throughout the narration we feel scared for the lives of other members of the family.
Serafina Bettini is a police detective investigating the serial murders. She too is scarred by the war, both physically and emotionally, and she cannot explain why she feels personally connected to the Rosati family. That is, until she regains her memory of her harrowing ordeal back in 1944.
The events taking place in 1955 are just as attention-grabbing as the events of 1943.
Great suspense. I couldn’t guess who the killer was until the last revealing chapter.
Chris Bohjalian is a very good writer. This is his second novel that I’ve read and I’m going to read all of his books.