In her latest novel, Astolfo (Legacy, 2012, etc.) takes what at first glance appears to be a straightforward story of murder and guilt to an unexpected place where love is discovered.
Anne Williams, a haughty, self-proclaimed “Ice Queen,” kills her best friend and roommate, Karoline. While Anne spends the first few pages saying what a beautiful woman she is and how much attention she garners, it becomes clear that it’s not an indulgent outpouring of facts but rather, her way of putting walls up between herself and the reader even after confessing to murder. She’s built up only to be broken down and emotionally reconstructed once she finds her “real trio”—a brother and sister she never knew about—as opposed to the trio she grew up with: friends Karoline and Giulio. By putting a wedge in Anne’s thick shell on the first page and then continuing to pry the walls apart as readers witness her reactions to realizing where she’s actually from, Astolfo adeptly makes vast leaps of character transformation completely believable, even for a murderer. Anne goes on a treasure hunt for her real family’s secrets related to the fate of freed slaves, interracial relationships, incest and a fortune. Anne falls in love with Ethan, the cop who shows up on the scene after Karoline’s murder, and she learns to let her guard down and care for her siblings and dying birth mother, Memé. Readers may not be surprised by who’s skulking through the darkness or frightening Anne’s mentally challenged brother, but the novel’s revelatory conclusion is shocking all the same.
A deliciously vibrant portrait that realistically muddles good and evil.