In a substantial, poignant, sometimes ponderous parallel-themed romance, a young lawyer in San Francisco emerges from tragedy to discover connections across time and geography.
There are no shortcuts and little frivolity in this solid, female-centered epic, the second novel from Australian-born, U.K.-based Hardie (The Rose Labyrinth, 2008). Signs and portents, relics, histories, religious debates, lawsuits and voyages of personal discovery cram the convoluted, overextended pair of narrations linked by 21st-century American Madeline Moretti, whose life suddenly shifts tracks and sends her on a journey to an Italian inn, the site where, six centuries earlier, a traumatized, mute teenager is restored to voice by a fugitive who has endured terrors and is the subject of myth. In the present, Madeline is caught up in a human-rights case involving the employees of smooth, seductive businessman Pierce Gray, who seems to be pursuing her, as does the more elusive Danish architect she meets in Italy. In the past, crime, plague and banishment link the destinies of three strong women with healing talents.
Hardie seems heavily in thrall to her research; while her twin tales eventually reach pat endings, they fall short of a fully meshed conclusion.