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An exploration of post-WWII Italy doubles as a murder mystery in this well-crafted novel from Bohjalian (The Sandcastle Girls). In 1952 Florence, Francesca Rosati, a dress-shop worker, is brutally murdered by a killer who carves out her heart, and Detective Serafina Bettini is assigned to solve the homicide. She discovers Francesca had married into the once wealthy and powerful Rosati family, who owned a large estate in the same hills near Florence where Serafina fought as a partisan. The Rosatis, headed by matriarch Beatrice, hosted Nazi officers on their property during the war, breeding deep animosity among the local populace. Serafina's belief that Francesca's murder is linked to this lingering resentment of the family is strengthened after another Rosati is found dead. The investigation leads Serafina back to the former Rosati estate, and she learns that the family's wartime record was more complicated than it appears. Meanwhile, in a series of short chapters, the vengeful serial killer vows to destroy the surviving Rosatis. Bohjalian tips his hand too early as to the killer's identity, but otherwise delivers an entertaining historical whodunit. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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In 1955 Florence, Italy, a serial killer is carefully, gruesomely killing off members of the Rosati family. Tearing out each victim's heart and leaving it on display, the murderer has something important to say about this family of noble blood, and Det. Serafina Bettini suspects it may have something to do with their activities during World War II. Serafina, massively scarred from the war, can't remember all that happened one disastrous night, and she keeps her partisan background secret. Back in 1943 in the Rosati family villa, German soldiers make themselves at home while investigating an Etruscan burial site, and the youngest Rosati daughter finds herself falling in love with a young German soldier. Weaving pieces back and forth through the two time periods, best-selling author Bohjalian (The Sandcastle Girls) illuminates the ruination of family, trust, and community in crisis in time of war. VERDICT Thoroughly gripping, beautiful, and astonishingly vengeful, this novel is a heartbreaker. Bohjalian's latest turn to historical fiction is immensely rewarding. [See Prepub Alert, 1/25/13.]-Julie Kane, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Best-selling and versatile novelist Bohjalian (The Sandcastle Girls, 2012) returns to crime fiction in his fifteenth novel. In Florence in 1955, Francesca Rosati still beautiful and aloof, though grieving for her husband and children is murdered, her heart wrenched from her body. A serial killer is at work, preying on the Rosati family. Serafina Bettini, Florence's only woman detective, wonders if the war has something to do with this gruesome vendetta. In extended flashbacks, we see Francesca and her children living with her dignified and generous in-laws at the Villa Chimera. This lush Tuscany estate becomes a magnet for Nazis, allies turned occupiers, who are fascinated by a newly discovered Etruscan tomb. Francesca's young, lovely sister-in-law stokes an already combustible situation by falling in love with a Nazi lieutenant, and soon the gentle Rosatis find themselves trapped, forced to host Nazi officers while a determined band of partisans takes shelter in the Etruscan ruins. Serafina, severely scarred by burns suffered during the war, hunts not only for the serial killer but also for answers to the mystery of her own survival. 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.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist