Adam Strickland, 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 the famous Docci garden in Tuscany. Dedicated to the memory of a fifteenth-century nobleman’s young wife, the garden is a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. But Adam comes to suspect that something sinister lies buried in the garden’s strange iconography. What if Lord Docci’s wife was murdered, and her memorial garden is filled with pointers to both the method and the motive of the crime?
As the odd history 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 hears stories of yet another violent death in the family, 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.
As Adam delves into his subject, he begins to suspect that his seemingly innocent history project might be a setup. Is he really just the naive student, stumbling upon clues, or is he being used to discover the true meaning of the villa’s murderous past?
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"An amazing novel that has 2 distinct mysteries that get solved within, narrated by an English art student still not yet having found himself. It was written by a screenwriter who delighted me in writing in a beautifully visual style that had me immersed in Tuscany in the hot summer of 1958. There is some post-WW II intrigue, as well as some humor, love and drama, surrounded by a Renaissance Tuscan garden and villa, all interwoven in a book I couldn't put down. This author, Mark Mills, deservedly won recognition with his first novel, Amagansett, which took place in post-WW II Long Island, New York. There are 2 more of his I will need to track down!"
Jay (4 out of 5 stars)