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Crime Mystery set in Florence

20th January 2018

The Faces of Angels by Lucretia Grindle, crime mystery set in Florence.

I have often heard it said that Lucretia Grindle is to Florence what Donna Leon is to Venice, and therefore I have had my eye on reviewing one of her titles for some time now.

Crime Mystery set in Florence

And I am pleased to report that from a literary wanderlust point of view, The Faces of Angels is an excellent novel to transport you to Florence, from the Boboli Gardens to the darker passageways of the city. The author has a real talent for creating atmosphere and a terrific sense of place. The characters even take a trip to Vicolo for an ice cream, and the wonderful Farmacia Santa Maria Novella also gets a mention. The characters venture further afield to places such as Fiesole.

Mary Warren/Thorcroft is in the final throes of her marriage to Ty, when they decamp to Florence for 6 months. She is after all a young woman from Pennsylvania who dreamed about being anywhere but there. She soon gains a lover, Pierangelo, to take her mind off her relationship issues. One day, sauntering though the Boboli Gardens, she is violently attacked, Ty comes to her rescue but is murdered by her assailant. The attacker, Karel Indrizzio is caught, and on the way to a prison facility in Milan, the car in which he is travelling catches fire and he dies.

After a period of recuperation in America, following the murder of her husband, she is back in Florence, essentially to be with her lover (it all sounds a bit tacky, but the author handles this sensitively). She embarks on an art history course in the city, sharing an apartment with Billy (a female room-mate, lest there should be any confusion about Mary’s moral compass now that she is in a more committed relationship with new beau, Pierangelo). As she settles into her life in Florence she becomes alarmingly aware of a series of grisly murders, young women whose lives are cut short. Karel Indrizzio may be dead but the perpetrator uses the same modus operandi as Indrizzio; is he perhaps nevertheless still alive and well, or is a copycat killer at work? She feels observed, mystery figures (especially with amber eyes) darting among the shadows… Is she imagining things, is fear preying on her mind?

There are many allusions to liturgical symbolism bound up in the murders, and much contemplation of the iconography within paintings (which will interest readers who like art), The author intricately weaves these into her plot, throwing in a few red herrings along the way, and keeping the reader guessing until the end. There is a lot of well informed and intelligent storytelling…

Overall, however, the author makes quite heavy weather of the narrative, the analogy of eating a dense and worthy sponge cake kept coming to haunt me, and I longed for a storyline with a lighter touch.

And why on earth the multiple use of “anyways” (twice on one page) wasn’t edited out, I really don’t know, because its over-use rather began to grate.

If you want a story where Florence is a large character in its own right, then give this book a go!

FLORENCE: This is what I love about this city, muses Mary, the sense that it’s made of magic boxes, that not only does time slide back and forth – suggesting you might turn a corner and run into Beatrice, or Byron, or the ancient Botticellli, raving, with spittle in his beard and God in his eyes…One second you’re standing in front of a wild baroque altar, the next you’re o a medieval battlement, or wandering in an olive grove. Add Fiesole, and you’ll get a Roman bath or an Etruscan shrine“. Now THAT is Florence!

Tina for the Tripfiction Team

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