A frightening encounter with the street children of bomb-damaged Naples in 1945 brings Caterina Lombardi in contact with the aloof Major Jake Parr, an American policeman-turned-soldier charged with safeguarding Italy’s treasures against looting and the black market. Caterina, a skilled wood-inlay worker from nearby Sorrento, is the sole provider for her blind grandfather and 11-year-old brother Luca, since her mother abandoned them years ago and her father was killed during the war. So when Major Parr makes accusations of criminal activity against her beloved father, Caterina is determined to clear his name, unaware of how much danger her quest will lead her into.
This is a terrific historical thriller. Caterina is a multifaceted heroine: principled, brave almost to the point of recklessness, fiercely protective of her family, but also vulnerable and still longing for her mother, despite knowing intellectually that her mother, Lucia, is selfish, manipulative, and incapable of giving her and Luca the love and stability they crave. The other characters are equally well-developed, and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged until the end. The scenery is vividly evoked, from the bombed-out, shabby glamour of Naples to the narrower streets of Sorrento, from the chilly elegance of an aristocratic villa on the island of Capri to the tunnels that honeycomb the rock beneath the foundations of Naples itself. Indeed, I could easily see this novel being turned into a film or a TV serial in the style of The Night Manager. This was my first Kate Furnivall novel, but it definitely won’t be my last. Highly recommended.