cover image The Savage Garden

The Savage Garden

Mark Mills, . . Putnam, $24.95 (324pp) ISBN 978-0-399-15353-2

Two murders committed 400 years apart form the core of British author Mills's outstanding second novel (after Amagansett , which won a CWA Dagger Award). In 1958, Cambridge undergraduate Adam Strickland, who's studying a curious Tuscan Renaissance garden for his art history thesis, is equally intrigued by both the garden of the Villa Docci estate and its elderly owner, Signora Francesca Docci. Built by the villa's first owner, Federico Docci, in 1577, the garden was intended as a memorial to his wife, Flora, who died when she was only 25. In the course of his research, Adam begins to sense that events, both past and present, are not as clear-cut as they appear. In particular, he discovers that there are several versions of the death of Signora Docci's oldest son, Emilio, who was shot by the villa's German occupiers at the end of WWII. Adam is hailed by all when he comes up with a novel theory explaining Flora's death in 1548, but when he begins to speculate on Emilio's demise, he finds himself in serious danger. This engrossing literary novel, like Amagansett , deserves to be a bestseller. (May)