Mills, Mark - 'The Savage Garden'
This second novel by Mark Mills is a stunning success. It is a very articulate, literary book that slowly builds the very atmospheric plot. It draws the reader, very successfully, into a world of late 1958.
Adam a 22 year old student at Cambridge University is persuaded by his Professor to visit a Villa that he knows, in Tuscany, and to trace the background to a 16th Century monument in the garden. The Professor argues that Adam may wish to consider the investigation as a potential subject for his University thesis and the College would cover his expenses.
The author paints a very convincing picture of Florence and its environment and soon Adam is investigating the background of the statues and grottoes in the garden to the Villa Docci. There are a lot of mythological references here but soon Adam realises that the 16th Century mystery is overtaken somewhat by a more recent killing in the 1940s.
The author builds some romantic diversions into the story in respect of the occupiers of the Villa and the story moves along very swiftly to its dramatic conclusion.
Another reviewer has drawn parallels with this novel and THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS. Whilst I agree the literary quality of THE SAVAGE GARDEN is possibly shared with these other novels, there isn't the fantasy element in this novel that there was with THE SHADOW OF THE WIND and the writing is much tighter in this one, unlike SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS which was rather prone to flabby, superfluous description.
All in all, Mark Mills has written a superlative novel that moves the crime/mystery onto a much higher level and may he continue to produce books of this quality.
Terry Halligan, England