Debut novel by New York Times Pulitzer-winning correspondent Egan (Lasso the Wind, 1998, etc.) about a young woman’s quest to uncover the cause of her brother’s death.
When young Angelo Cartolano moved to the Pacific Northwest just after WWII, he came up with the idea of importing grapes from his native Italy and eventually created the first (and, many believe, the best) winery in Washington State. But after 50 years, Angelo is getting on. His daughter Brunella is an architect in Seattle, currently working as consultant to a developer who wants to reclaim an abandoned fishing village on the Puget Sound; his son Niccolo is a smokejumper in the Forest Service. An extended drought has led to a series of disastrous firestorms in the region, and Niccolo is killed fighting one of them. Angelo and Brunella are both devastated, but their shock turns to horror when they learn that the Forest Service has begun an investigation into claims that Niccolo’s own incompetence led to his death and those of the men under his command. Brunella, meanwhile, finds herself at the center of a controversy when she testifies at the last minute against the development she had been hired to vet. She also learns that a nearby Indian tribe is trying to siphon off water supplies in order to construct a casino on its reservation, and she begins to suspect that this may have had something to do with the failure of the fire pumps that led to her brother’s death and vilification. Overwhelmed by such revelations, Brunella flees to Italy and tries to begin a new life. But family ghosts are not so easily stilled.
A rollicking soap opera with as many twists as a corkscrew, written with an investigative reporter’s eye for detail and nose for coincidence—even though, like a good Barolo, it’s a bit too strong to swallow in one gulp.