Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

It is 1958 and Adam Strickland has reached the end of his second year studying at Cambridge. He is not the most diligent of students and when his tutor asks to see him he presumes he is in trouble for slacking. Instead he is offered a dissertation topic, studying the garden of a Tuscan villa owned by a friend of his tutor. Intrigued and desperate not to follow in his father's footsteps Adam agrees. What he does not anticipate is that the garden hides a 400 year old mystery and a curse that has followed the owners for years. Armed with his intellect alone Adam feels he must solve the mystery of the garden and the mystery that surrounds the current owners in the few short weeks he has.

I picked this book up as I hoped it would be something different to what I usually read. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. Although the first few chapters had me wondering if anything was going to happen as the story unfolded I was gradually drawn in. Like any good detective story by the end I was heading in the right direction although I hadn't quite guessed what was going on. There are plenty of twists and turns but for fans of fast paced action you will find this book very slow and lacking in action. Much of the story line involves looking at the garden and several of the older characters reminiscing, as well as family dinners.

It is certainly one of the better representations of Italy I have read of late. The descriptions make you want to visit but they don't drown the story line. The family at the centre of the book feel convincingly Italian. There is good food, good company and a general happiness that you expect from your stereotypical Italian experience.

Its a book that is well worth trying and persevering with past the first few chapters. Its not a difficult read and if you want a detective story with more similarity to Rosemary and Thyme than Waking the Dead then this is probably for you.

*3 stars*

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