Villa Triste

Written by Lucretia Grindle
Review by Audrey Braver

In modern-day Florence, Italy, Inspector Alessandro Pallioti has his hands full investigating a series of execution-style murders. The victims, all elderly men, were recently awarded medals for their partisan activities during World War II. The motive for these murders is unclear. There is no evidence to indicate a suspect.

Among one of the victim’s effects, Pallioti finds a red leather book, a type of diary popular with elegant women, an unusual object for an elderly bachelor to have in his safe. Pallioti’s curiosity is piqued. The book belonged to a young nurse from a prominent Florentine family. It records life in occupied Florence, including her family’s partisan activities. They transport allied prisoners, Jews, and others through Nazi lines to Switzerland. Towards the end of the war when the allies are fighting their way to northern Italy, the family’s efforts continue despite the lack of food and essential supplies. Pallioti realizes this book holds clues to his investigation.

Grindle writes with a clean, efficient style. The plot moves extremely fast, and her characters are well-developed. They are intriguing and likeable, and their motivations are understandable. The author empathetically portrays life in a Nazi-occupied city and the growing desperation of the citizens as supplies and options dwindle. This book was hard to put down.