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The Savage Garden Paperback – May 6, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425221296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425221297
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Two murders committed 400 years apart form the core of British author Mills's outstanding second novel (after Amagansett, which won a CWA Dagger Award). In 1958, Cambridge undergraduate Adam Strickland, who's studying a curious Tuscan Renaissance garden for his art history thesis, is equally intrigued by both the garden of the Villa Docci estate and its elderly owner, Signora Francesca Docci. Built by the villa's first owner, Federico Docci, in 1577, the garden was intended as a memorial to his wife, Flora, who died when she was only 25. In the course of his research, Adam begins to sense that events, both past and present, are not as clear-cut as they appear. In particular, he discovers that there are several versions of the death of Signora Docci's oldest son, Emilio, who was shot by the villa's German occupiers at the end of WWII. Adam is hailed by all when he comes up with a novel theory explaining Flora's death in 1548, but when he begins to speculate on Emilio's demise, he finds himself in serious danger. This engrossing literary novel, like Amagansett, deserves to be a bestseller. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mills' second novel carves out new territory for the British author, whose superb debut, Amagansett (2004), told the story of a Basque fisherman on Long Island. This one, though still set in the post-World War II era, takes place in Tuscany, where Adam Banting, a Cambridge architecture student, is doing research on a famous Renaissance garden. But as he digs into the history and iconography of the garden, he comes to believe that the seemingly tranquil bower offers a road map to how its original owner murdered his wife. Similarly, as Adam learns more about the family who now owns the garden, he follows the trail of a more contemporary murder. This sort of jumping between historical and contemporary crimes has become commonplace, even cliched, in highbrow literary thrillers, but Mills uses the technique effectively, generating tension on both fronts and introducing some dizzying plot machinations. Adam is a bit too callow to hold our attention the way the robust Basque did in Amagansett, but there is plenty here to captivate those who like high culture mixed with high crime (fans of Iain Pears, for example). Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mark Mills graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. He has lived in both Italy and France, and has written for the screen. His first novel, 'The Whaleboat House', won the 2004 Crime Writer's Association for Best Novel by a debut author. His second, 'The Savage Garden', was a Richard and Judy Summer Read and No 1 bestseller. He lives in Oxford with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

This is the best book that I read over the summer.
I also did not like the personal details of Adam's life that came into play late in the book because they just felt a bit too tacked on for me.
This is a classic -- beautifully written, well thought out characters, a unique story.
Carol Steuer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on November 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About three years ago, British author Mark Mills debuted with "Amagansett", a critically acclaimed murder mystery set in post-World War II Long Island, notable in the off-the-beaten track setting and period and in Mill's slick and sophisticated prose. But where "Amagansett" meandered sometimes aimlessly across Hampton's dunes, Mills' second effort, "The Savage Garden", is as lively and raucous a page-turner as the Tuscan hills where his story takes place.

Adam Strickland is a young Cambridge student in the decade or so following World War II; a brilliant but borderline slacker. For his thesis, his professor suggests travel to Italy to research the Renaissance gardens of the Villa Docci. Drawn more to the promised pleasures of Tuscany's seductive hills than the academic allure of a rather pedestrian Florentine garden, Adam gladly accepts the challenge. Traveling from Florence to the surrounding hillsides, Adam meets the aging and elegant matriarch Signora Docci and begins his scholarly research on the villa's garden, supposedly a memorial to "Flora" - the wife of it's 15th century owner. But it is soon apparent that there is more to the garden - and to the families who've occupied the villa for centuries - than Renaissance architecture and medieval history. Intrigue and mystery seem to lurk behind every statue and behind the villa's locked doors, revealing sinister parallel events spanning the hundreds of years between Flora's untimely death and the murder of Signora Docci's son by the Nazi's who occupied the villa during the WWII.

Simply put, "The Savage Garden" has all the elements making a great novel.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cambridge University Professor Crispin Leonard has waited a long time to find just the right student for a sensitive task. An old friend, Signora Docci, has asked him to be on the lookout for someone to unravel the symbolism of the grounds surrounding her family villa a short distance from the tiny Tuscan hill town of San Casciano. After careful consideration, Professor Leonard chooses senior Adam Strickland and sends him off on a discovery mission. The centuries-old garden has rested quietly until Adam arrives to study it for his thesis. He immerses himself in the tangle of vegetation, but finds that the manor house intrigues him almost as much as the garden. Adam has heard the stories and knows that something tragic occurred there during the Second World War, some 14 years previous to his arrival, resulting in the third floor of the villa being sealed and declared off limits.

Almost instantly, Villa Docci's matriarch, the elderly Francesca Docci, warms to Adam, eager to hear what insights he unearths. As Adam wanders the garden, more questions than answers arise. The statues seem oddly placed. Even their expressions are a bit off. Adam's research leads him to the belief that this is not the work of a bad landscape architect. Rather, the garden is precisely as designed. But why? And the matter of the closed-off floor of the villa? The explanation Adam has heard involved the death of Signora Docci's eldest son at the hands of occupying German soldiers. A tragedy, yes, but is it reasonable to close off that part of the house forever?

Adam had planned only a few weeks to complete his work in Italy, but he finds himself enchanted by Antonella, Francesca's granddaughter. Then Harry, Adam's rogue brother, announces that he will drop in for a short stay.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on May 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Savage Garden by Mark Mills is an engrossing, enthralling read. In what other book can you find a discussion of Renaissance sculpture, the genetic ancestry of oranguatans, Ovid, Dante, WWII, plus some spicy romance? Mills manages to throw all of that into this book and yet it remains a tightly written mystery. College student Adam Strickland is assigned a paper to look into the history of an unusual 16th century garden in Italy by his professor. Upon his arrival, he finds himself pulled into the intricate politics and machinations of the family as well as falling head over heels for the villa and its garden. The garden is filled with sculptures that seem to tell a story, it's up to Adam to put the pieces together and perhaps lift a family curse, because the eldest son was murdered by the Germans at the end of the war, and his death hangs heavily over the villa (including the entire third floor which has been locked since) and the small town as well. Adam is a friendly character who fills his narrative with bits of minituae that may not move the story but are fascinating in their telling. His explanation for why he can see connections and meanings where others missed them is that he is so ordinary that perhaps he notices when things aren't as ordinary as they should be. Charming! My one complaint is that I figured out who Flora's lover was long before Adam. Mills describes the cities of Florence and Sienna with such love and detail, I wish I could book a trip right now. The denouement is a nice switch from what I thought was coming, and the last line was jaw-dropping. Does this mean that there are more Adam Strickland stories coming our way? I sincerely hope so!
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