I am a long time Bohjalian fan, but I haven’t read all of his books. So when the Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition selected this book as the book to read for the biennial Read Together Palm Beach County, I was delighted.
I would say that this book is a little different for Chris, but let’s face it, all of his books are vastly different, from transgender to Armenian genocide to midwifery. This book is set in Italy and moves between two time periods, 1944 during the second World War, and eleven years later, in 1955.
At it’s heart this is a mystery. Two people are killed within a few days of each other. Both are members of an old Italian family of noble descent, the Rosati family, and the police fear that other family members may be in danger. And not only were they killed, both had their hearts cut out of their bodies, so this feels very much like a serial killer at work.
During the war, the Rosati’s estate was inhabited by Nazis. The Italians were allies of the Germans, and the Rosati’s uncomfortably worked with them, entertained them and so forth. One of the young German soldiers starts courting one of the Rosati’s daughters, too, but like Romeo and Juliet, their love is threatened by the family, and the circumstance of war just adds to the misalliance.
The detective investigating the murder is a young woman named Serafina. She was a partisan fighter during the war, and suffered grave injury. Her memories of that time in her life are sketchy at best, but start trickling back during this investigation.
Bohjalian is a literary writer, and the writing here is beautiful. The story is all about the characters and doesn’t move as quickly as one might expect a serial killer type thriller to move. But it is a deeply moving, albeit often times upsetting read, but that is the subject matter. One review called it a “why done it” instead of a “who done it” and I think that is apt.
If you enjoy literary mysteries, historical settings, and beautiful writing, then this is the book for you.
3/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS by Chris Bohjalian. Vintage; Reprint edition (April 22, 2014). ISBN 978-0307743923. 309p.