From Publishers Weekly
Goodman (The Ghost Orchid
) turns to Shakespeare for the plot of her fifth novel, with mixed results. Rose Asher, Hudson College Renaissance poetry professor, returns to La Civetta, the Italian estate-turned-academic retreat where, as a college student 20 years earlier, she had the romance of her life with married professor Bruno Brunelli. He's still there, but this time Rose has come as an adviser on a film inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets and the mysterious "Dark Lady" therein. The script, which includes an unattributed Shakespeare-like sonnet (taken from a manuscript found at La Civetta), is by one of Rose's star pupils, Robin Weiss, who soon dies in a possibly suicidal accident. The manuscript has vanished, but the sonnet seems to suggest that Ginevra de Laura, the 16th-century daughter of a master mosaic artist who worked at the estate, may be its author—and Shakespear's Dark Lady. Multiple plots and subplots revolve around the manuscript's recovery, Robin's death, the film, Rose's clandestine relationship with college president Mark Abrams, Bruno's presence and worries that Bruno's son, Orlando, may be a murderer. Goodman makes a plausible fictional case for Ginevra's crossing paths with Shakespeare and ably recreates the present and past Italian countryside. Nevertheless, dizzying crisscrosses, love triangles and rampant political machinations surrounding La Civetta's ownership obscure an intriguing solution to the lingering Dark Lady mystery. (June)
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*Starred Review* Poetry approaches life aslant, offering hints of hidden truths. Hammett Prize winner Goodman makes brilliant use of the poet's perspective in a gripping mystery literary in form and content. Poet and Renaissance scholar Rose Asher (so much is in a name) teaches at a small but ambitious New York college that offers a summer program at La Civetta, a villa outside Florence. The resplendent, reputedly haunted villa is the setting for a film made by Rose's favorite student, who falls to his death immediately after the premier. Did Robin die because he discovered the long-lost work of an unknown Renaissance woman poet? Rose, involved in a secret affair with the suspiciously elusive college president, reluctantly returns to La Civetta, the site of her greatest love, to see if she can discover the truth about Ginevera de Laura. Was she the enigmatic Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets? Did her blood once stain the villa's marble floors? Goodman plants macabre clues in the villa's elaborate ornamentation and makes fluent use of Shakespeare's works and life in a stunningly intricate, slyly satiric, and darkly romantic mystery of lust and privilege, love and poetry. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved