The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Categories: Historical, Literary, Mystery
1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.

My Thoughts:

There’s no way to pigeonhole Chris Bohjalian’s latest book. It’s a murder mystery, but it’s not a typical murder mystery. There’s romance, but it’s not your usual romance. It’s historical fiction, but it’s about a time and place that hasn’t been featured in many books.

The upheaval in Italy during WWII cannot be overstated. Bohjalian brings this period to life by focusing on the struggles of the Rosati family. Germany and Italy are allies…until they aren’t. Loyalty becomes a very sticky subject.

A decade after the end of the war members of the Rosati family are being targeted by a vengeful killer. Do the murders have something to do with the way the family conducted itself during the war? No spoilers here! I hope you’re as surprised by the ending as I was.

The Light in the Ruins is a well-crafted and polished tale. The setting is impressive and the characters are convincing. Mr. Bohjalian has done it again. I’ll absolutely be looking forward to whatever he writes next.

About Chris Bohjalian

46 thoughts on “The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

  1. I usually don't have great luck with his work, and he ALWAYS seems to be lurking around seeing me say that. I will try again, but I'm thinking Midwives might be the book for me.


  2. All this \”like this, but not like this\” makes me intriguified. Yes, I totally just made that up. I still haven't read Bohjalian. This makes me sadified too. 🙂


  3. I only occasionally read historical fiction, but this one sounds intriguing. I like the Italy setting as well. Thanks for showcasing!


  4. I've not read any Bohjalian, but now I have to do that. Your review is full of \”you need to read me\” pull. To the TBR list this goes!


  5. Bohjalian's premises are always fascinating, and I love the first 2/3 of his novels I've read. But then something happens in the last 1/3 that puts me off. Something about how he wraps up a story or his surprise, twisty endings always makes me angry! I'll keep reading, though. I kind of like getting angry at him now. HAHA.


  6. Although I never search out books about WWII AND I have had my fill with books in Italy, this does sound good. I loved Bohjalian's previous book (my first by him).


  7. This author is going to be in town tonight, but I don't think I'm going to go because I have such precious free-time with my husband – about two hours a night lately. BUT, I have heard good things about this one and, I think he wrote it.. Sandcastle Girls?


  8. I am so going to check out this book!! The setting sounds great – Florence, Italy! It somehow reminds me of one my favourite books I've read this year: The Savage Garden. That cover is nice too.


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