“The Light in the Ruins” by Chris Bohjalian is a page turner that is both a murder mystery and a historical tale. The story takes place in the hills south of Florence in 1955 with flashbacks to 1943. In 1955, Serafina Bettini, a detective with the Florence police, is investigating the brutal murder of Francesca Rosati. The Rosati’s, an Italian noble family, had an ancient villa that was virtually destroyed at the end of the German occupation in 1943. When a second member of the Rosati family is found murdered in much the same way the race is on to find the killer before any more of the family is killed.
As the novel moves forward between the two years we learn that Serafina was a member of the Italian resistance movement and bears the scars of the war. Cristina Rosati, the youngest member of the family, only a teenager in 1943, became smitten with a German soldier in the closing days of the occupation. With each visit to the past, more is revealed of what could be compelling the murders. In 1955, the killer speaks of his plans to continue the carnage.
This was a great story that layered the suspense with each new chapter. It kept me guessing, until the very end, about who was responsible for the murders. Bohjalian, at the same time, also paints a very vivid picture of what it was like in occupied Italy as the German’s were losing the war. The resistance fighters, the collaborators, crazy Germans, soldiers just doing what they have to, and families caught in the middle are all given a voice.
I love that I always learn something new when I read one of Bohjalian’s novels. I highly recommend this read!