Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Written by Mark T. Sullivan
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1943, 17-year-old Pino Lella strolls along the streets of Milan, Italy. Outside a bakery, he meets the beautiful Anna. He pesters her for a date, and she accepts. Despite being stood up, Pino cannot get Anna out of his mind. When an Allied bomb wrecks his family home, Pino’s parents send him north to Casa Alpina. There he assists Father Re in his dangerous missions of transporting Jews to safety in neutral Switzerland. Near Pino’s eighteenth birthday, he’s recalled to Milan, his father suggesting enlistment in the German Army to avoid being drafted. Pino becomes the chauffeur/translator for General Leyers, Hitler’s left-hand-man in Italy. Surprisingly, he meets Anna again, working as a maid to Leyers’ mistress. Pino uses the opportunities of his position not only to spy for the partisans but also to romance Anna. Pino expects to fulfill his dream of spending a lifetime of happiness with her.

Mark Sullivan, a bestselling author who has co-authored novels with James Patterson, acknowledges that this book “is a novel of biographical and historical fiction.” His trips to Italy, discussions with the now-elderly Pino Lella, and painstaking research are all shown in his detailed narrative. These make the book read much like a work of narrative nonfiction. Readers will be amazed at Pino’s numerous successful wartime efforts. These include guiding Jews through several dangerous hindrances to the Swiss border, driving the general around like an experienced chauffeur, acting like a trained secret agent by retrieving and making photographs of top-secret documents from the general’s briefcase, assisting the arriving American soldiers, and more. These can only be attributed to the adage: truth is stranger than fiction. The historical details are generally presented in the characters’ clear dialogue, and the scenes are effectively dramatized up to the terrific ending. Highly recommended.