cover image The Italian Party

The Italian Party

Christina Lynch. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-14783-7

In Lynch’s perceptive debut, set in 1956, Michael and Scottie Messina are a glamorous young American couple who have arrived in Siena, Italy, where the former is to open a Ford tractor agency. But this is just a cover story; unknown to Scottie, Michael is a CIA agent charged with ensuring that the city’s next mayor will not be a Communist. Michael and Scottie also have other secrets: Michael is a closeted gay man who has come to Italy to be with Duncan, his lover from Yale, who has something he is hiding from Michael. And Scottie is pregnant and has yet to get up the nerve to tell her husband, for reasons that include yet another secret. Michael is soon involved in espionage capers, while Scottie becomes embroiled in the search for a missing local youth she befriended. The secrets come out just as Ambassador Clare Booth Luce arrives in Siena for a visit. The story plays like a confectionary Hollywood romance with some deeper notes reminiscent of John le Carré and Henry James. Scottie is a resilient main character who might have been played by Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn in a 1950s movie adaptation of this entertainingly subversive take on that seemingly innocent period. [em]Agent: Claudia Cross, Folio Literary Management. (Mar.) [/em]