The richly imagined setting will appeal to Tuscan sun worshippers, but the mystery suffers from lack of a credible murder...

THE SONNET LOVER

A literature professor unveils the grim secret of a Tuscan villa in Goodman’s florid fifth (The Ghost Orchid, 2006, etc.).

Rose Asher, a student in Hudson College’s summer program at villa La Civetta, fell in love with her professor, Bruno Brunelli. Much to her disillusionment, Bruno returned to his pregnant wife. Twenty years later, Rose, now teaching at Hudson, is recruited by Leo, a Hollywood producer, to consult on a movie to be shot on location at La Civetta about Ginevra de Laura, a 16th-century poetess rumored to have been Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. The screenwriter, Robin, falls to his death from a balcony at a college cocktail party. Or was he pushed? Eyewitnesses, including Rose’s current flame Mark (Hudson’s president) and colleague Gene, insist Robin committed suicide when Bruno’s son, exchange student Orlando, enraged by Robin’s theft of his script idea, lunged at him. What exactly plagiarism-prone Robin stole fluctuates throughout: Could it be Ginevra’s long lost poems? Or a letter validating Bruno’s hereditary claim to La Civetta, which threatens Hudson’s hopes of inheriting the villa from absinthe aficionado Cyril Graham? When the Hudson throng reconvenes at La Civetta, Bruno rekindles Rose’s passion, but intrigue soon trumps romance. Inexplicably fearing that bad publicity might hurt the film project, Leo bribes Gene, his shopaholic pillhead wife Mara and Mark to keep the balcony incident quiet. Meanwhile, Rose studies the villa’s pietro dure mosaic floors and their free-form motif of rose petals sprinkled in a path leading from the bridal suite. In the moonlight, these petals resemble drops of blood, symbolizing the defloration of Ginevra by the lord of La Civetta, who decorated the bridal suite with frescos illustrating the wages of thwarted love, including stabbing, disemboweling and…nevermind. Mara trips fatally over ruined steps in the rose garden, and acting student Zoe swallows poison. At the risk of alienating Bruno, Rose must stop Orlando.

The richly imagined setting will appeal to Tuscan sun worshippers, but the mystery suffers from lack of a credible murder motive.

Pub Date: June 12, 2007

ISBN: 0-345-47957-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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