- Hardcover: 324 pages
- Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Son's; 1st edition (May 10, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399153535
- ISBN-13: 978-0399153532
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 87 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #997,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Savage Garden Hardcover – May 10, 2007
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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)
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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
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What I wonder is how did Adam with his lack of experience and laissez-faire attitude solve the two murder mysteries surrounding Villa Docci? He was manipulated and directed by other characters throughout the story. Bothe the characters of Adam and his brother, Harry, lacked sophistication as did their back story which diminished the book. They were two college kids seeking good food, wine and amore on summer holiday. I am still not certain if Adam had the ability to solve the mystery of the garden.
I liked the author's first book better than this one.
Mark Mills gives us a well researched novel providing details about the Italian Renaissance, sculpture, Florence and Dante Alighieri. However, it does lack in suspense as the reader works out who Flora's mysterious lover was long before Adam eventually works it out. Solving the mystery of the garden does not appear to as important as solving the murder of the eldest son of Signora Docci during WWII and why he looked so different from his father and brother. Big shocker there...NOT!
Those small irritations aside, I enjoyed this novel and, although the ending was rather flat, I felt that perhaps Mark Mills will write further adventures with Adam Stickland at the centre of the action.