Lead Review (Signatures in Stone)

  • Book: Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery
  • Location: Bomarzo, Lazio
  • Author: Linda Lappin

Review Author: tripfiction



Author Linda Lappin infuses her novels with a fascinating blend of history, mystery, and magic realism. She does so in a way that even the most pragmatic and rational reader can immerse themselves in a world where ghostly specters coexist with very real protagonists, making for an entertaining read.

Lappin’s storytelling is enhanced by her intimate familiarity with her chosen settings. She has lived and traveled extensively throughout Italy, France, and Greece. Signatures in Stone is set in the wild countryside of Italy’s historical region of Tuscia where the five-hundred-year-old Monster Park of Bomarzo presents the perfect backdrop for Lappin’s eerie, atmospheric mystery. The novel introduces the reader to a lesser-known region of Italy dotted with craggy hills, thorny bushes, and plunging gorges. The Monster Park and its grotesque stone creatures play a mute yet menacing role in this historic whodunnit. To quote the author, ‘places inhabit us just as we inhabit them’.

The story is set between the two World Wars, a time when ancient fortunes wither away and succeeding generations are left to fend for themselves with a blend of self-pity and begrudging resourcefulness. Such is the plight of Daphne, a British writer of occult mysteries living a pauper’s existence in Paris (though she notably possesses a few sartorial luxuries from her past life). The heroine is coerced out of her opium induced decline by her devious publisher who whisks her off to a dilapidated palazzo in Bomarzo. There she is contractually obliged to write her next novel. ‘Publish or die’ has real financial implications but Daphne is not easily cowed. Her character is fiery yet flawed, and her clear-eyed introspection and witty observations carry the plot forward.

From the outset, the motley cast of characters who inhabit the palazzo are not quite what they seem. As Daphne grapples with writer’s block and an unexpected liaison with a younger man, she is inexplicably drawn to the lurid Monster Park adjacent to the palazzo. She soon finds herself in danger for her life and is eventually accused of a murder that takes place in that very same park. Thanks to a series of ‘signatures’-those signs and coincidences loaded with hidden significance-Daphne unwittingly helps the Italian detective solve the murder and unmask the true perpetrators.

In her evocative narrative, Lappin taps into all our senses and encourages the reader to consider the existence of other dimensions. But it is her sardonic protagonist who keeps us firmly grounded in the physical world. It is worthwhile mentioning that Signatures in Stone won the DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense Writing.

Lilianne Milgrom for the TripFiction Team

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