- Title: The Light in the Ruins
- Author: Chris Bohjalian
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Published: July 2013 – Doubleday
- Source: Publisher
Synopsis: 1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.
1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history. (publisher)
My take: I usually include the publisher’s synopsis because I’m hard-pressed to come up with a better one on my own so be sure to read the one above.
The author intertwined two stories (separated by 11 years) to form a compelling whodunnit. His richly detailed description of the Tuscan villa commandeered by Germans in 1944 in contrast with 1955 and the stark reality of a serial killer intent on the grisly murders of the family who owned the villa held my interest throughout. That says something because I don’t usually enjoy suspense, mysteries or crime novels. However, I do enjoy Chris Bohjalian’s novels and this one was no exception.
What resonated most for me were the choices many of the characters made and the impact or fallout of those choices. The Light in the Ruins is a story of love and loss and the ultimate resilience of the human spirit.