Pick of the Week: "Light in the Ruins'' by Chris Bohjalian

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Chris Bohjalian returns from his magnificent novel  about the Armenian Genocide, “The Sandcastle Girls’’, with  a suspenseful tale that gives a new spin on Romeo and Juliet by adding a vengeful killer.  These two books demonstrate Bohjalian’s versatility in tackling all kinds of topics in a wide variety of time frames. He is not a formulaic writer, but a craftsman who tells a great story.

“The Light in the Ruins’’ (published July 9) alternates between the last years of World War II and 1955 in Italy. The Rosatis are a family of nobility living in their beautiful villa near Florence. Their peaceful existence ends when the occupying Germans start taking over the Rosatis' property and devouring their supplies. In the meantime, 18-year-old Cristina falls in love with a young German lieutenant, much to the chagrin of her family.

The story flashes forward to 1955 in Florence, where police detective Serafina Bettini is called to a gruesome murder scene: a member of the Rosati family has been murdered and her heart ripped out of her chest. When a second Rosati is murdered soon after, it is clear that Serafina is looking for a serial killer who is targeting one family. Her investigation ends up crossing her own troubled past as a partisan fighting the Germans.

Bohjalian’s writing will make you feel you are in Tuscany with his vivid descriptions. This is a well-crafted page turner that had me going until the end and will appeal to mystery lovers. Once again, the author has given readers a wonderful book to devour.

--Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org


Jo Hansen has been a Readers’ Advisor at Cook Library for several years, after a 20-year career as a newspaper journalist. Libraries rock! She especially enjoys literary and historical fiction as well as mysteries and fantasy. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she enjoys playing with her chocolate Labrador Yogi Bear and watching great movies.