The Savage Garden

The Savage Garden

3.9 34
by Mark Mills
     
 

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Young Cambridge scholar Adam Banting is in Tuscany, assigned to write a scholarly monograph about the famous Docci garden—a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. As his research deepens, Adam comes to suspect that buried in the garden’s strange iconography is the key to uncovering a long-ago murder. But the

Overview

Young Cambridge scholar Adam Banting is in Tuscany, assigned to write a scholarly monograph about the famous Docci garden—a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. As his research deepens, Adam comes to suspect that buried in the garden’s strange iconography is the key to uncovering a long-ago murder. But the ancient house holds its own secrets as well. And as Adam delves into his subject, he begins to suspect that he is being used to discover the true meaning of the villa’s murderous past.

Editorial Reviews

A Tuscan Renaissance villa serves as the setting of the most unusual double murder mystery you will ever read. In the summer of 1958, Cambridge art history major Adam Strickland travels to Italy to research a monograph on an elaborate 16th-century garden. Drawn into the garden's intricate designs, grottoes, iconography, and inscriptions, Strickland soon begins to wonder if its elaborate patterns might hold the key to the 1548 death of the estate owner's wife. As he digs deeper, he also detects haunting inconsistencies in accounts of a far more recent murder, which occurred in the villa during the waning days of World War II. A captivating mystery with a sweet touch of Tuscan romance.
Marilyn Stasio
Struggling to keep his head in this seductively drawn company of educated and refined landowners, Adam applies his academic approach to the tantalizing mystery and, at no small cost to his own ego, eventually solves it. But in the process this naïve young man also learns more than any outsider needs to know about the desperate measures families will adopt to survive the wounds of war.
— The New York Times
Patrick Anderson
The Savage Garden is an impressive performance by a young British screenwriter whose first novel, Amagansett, was much admired three years ago.
— The Washington Post
New York Times Book Review
A romantic and gracefully executed literary puzzle.
Baltimore Sun
A sumptuous tale of multiple mysteries, family intrigues and hearty Continental flavor that demonstrates Mills has earned a prime place at the crime fiction table.
New York Times
Alluring, mysterious.
New York Daily News
In his first suspense novel, Amagansett, Mark Mills displayed a literary voice that was thoroughly embracing. The same is true in The Savage Garden.
Publishers Weekly

Two murders separated by centuries make up the heart of this excellent literary mystery. Set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside during the summer of 1958, Mills's novel tells the story of Adam Strickland, an art history major researching the 16th-century garden on the grounds of the Villa Docci. As Strickland studies the intricate sculptures and inscriptions in the garden, he deciphers a series of clues that hint at a murder committed more than 400 years ago. He also discovers evidence of another murder, this one only 14 years in the past. Unraveling the former mystery will find him a place in academic history, but solving the latter will place his life in danger. Stuart brings just the right touch to his reading of this intelligently written story. With an excellent use of his vocal talents, he moves easily from one character to another, never overplaying the accents or gender. His descriptive narration uses Mills's prose to sweep the listener into a classic world of intrigue and suspense. Fans of P.D. James and the like will enjoy. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 5). (May)

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Library Journal

This subtle and engaging mystery begins when Adam Strickland, an English college student, is dispatched to Italy in 1958 to study a unique garden. As Adam undertakes his research, he perceives that the garden's ornamentation is not a literary riddle but a 400-year-old confession to murder. While he is determining the garden's significance, he becomes aware of a more recent murder and begins investigating. Sophisticated armchair sleuths will delight in this book's characterization and ambiance. Ian Stuart's narration is unobtrusive and gentle. He handles the Italian words and phrases with casual confidence. Cultured listeners will be both entertained and satisfied with Mills's well-received second title, after Amagansett. Recommended.
—Ray Vignovich

Kirkus Reviews
In the second novel from Mills (Amagansett, 2004), a student unearths deadly secrets at a stately Tuscan villa. Cambridge scholar Adam Banting gets an unexpected offer from his mentor, Prof. Crispin Leonard: to explore the exotic garden of Leonard's old friend Signora Docci, and write an academic study of her singular garden. Having few other prospects and languishing in his relationship with aspiring writer Gloria, Adam accepts. Over ten years after WWII ended, the collective Italian psyche has conflicting emotions about its role in the war. Indeed, Signora Docci dotes on the memory of her son Emilio, whose death at the hands of German soldiers is shrouded in mystery. Adam gets contradictory snippets from a friendly local tradesman named Fausto and from the Signora's flirtatious granddaughter, Antonella, among others, before his charming, no-account brother Harry arrives unexpectedly to complicate his life. The garden Adam's come to study is lush and elaborate, its statuary eerily sensual and life-like. His appreciation warms the glamorous Signora Docci, and she unexpectedly takes him to bed, making him promise to keep their tryst a secret. He's excited to discover that the nine tiers of the garden correspond to the Dante's nine circles of Hell. As he uncovers more secrets about Emilio's suspicious death, Adam realizes that subtle features of the garden are offering clues. A murder puzzle wrapped around a literary deconstruction grounded in a perceptive study of seduction and survival. Sublime. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh/William Morris Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440638046
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/06/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
195,181
File size:
506 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Mark Mills is a screenwriter; among his credits is the recent movie, The Reckoning, adapted from Barry Unsworth's Morality Play. His first novel, Amagansett, was published in a dozen countries; received the British Crime Writers' Association John Creasy Memorial Dagger Award; and appeared on several US bestseller lists. A graduate of Cambridge, he lives in London.

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3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
cannonball More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this double-layered mystery set in the Tuscan countryside. A Cambridge student arrives to study a fifteenth-century garden dedicated to the memory of the estate owner's wife. The student finds sufficient anomalies in studying the garden's statuary to generate a wonderful mystery. Meanwhile...the student realizes the story about the death of the modern villa owner's son is not straight. Well written and enjoyable.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1958 at Cambridge University, Professor Leonard tears into wastrel student Adam Banting for spending more time with the ladies than on his thesis, which the student has no subject. Leonard assigns him a summer project to write a paper on a sixteenth century Tuscany garden dedicated to the then owner¿s late wife Signora Docci. Adam agrees that art and nature merge into a different aesthetic third type of entity.------------------------ The Professor finishes the arrangement with his long time friend ailing septuagenarian Signora Francesca Docci. Adam leaves soon after final exams for Tuscany. He finds his hostess a combination of crusty charm, but it is the garden that hooks him with its myriad of neoclassical statues, odd grottoes and cul de sacs, and several ponds and brooks. The etchings fascinate him most as Adam begins to put together the writings into a cohesive message that implies Signor Docci killed his wife. Adam also starts to wonder if history repeated itself during WWII when his hostess¿ son was allegedly killed by the Nazis on the villa¿s third floor which remains just the way it was in the early 1940s. Finally he ponders over the strangest most complex mystery of all - why Signora Docci wanted a student to study her garden?------------------ This ¿academic' mystery will hook the audience once Adam meets his hostess and never slows down as the hero becomes interested in more than just a beautiful garden when he begins to piece together the etchings throughout the garden that imply motive, means and opportunity of a spousal homicide. The story line is driven by the relationship between Adam and the elderly Francesca as he feels she is a master puppeteer and he is dangling off her ropes. Fans will appreciate this deep cerebral amateur sleuth that contains two historical mysteries inside a cleverly devised ¿plot¿.------------- Harriet Klausner
NaCl-1 More than 1 year ago
A fantastic command and use of the English language allows the author to develop the stories location and characters with a pleasant smoothness. You are pulled into the story almost at once as a young and not too serious English college student is send to Italy to work on his thesis.
From his arrival at the mysterious villa until its conclusion much later you are hooked and live the experiences with the young man.

Most enjoyable and so beautifully written.
GeorgeEllington More than 1 year ago
Adam Strickland, a somewhat wayward student from Cambridge, is sent by his professor to Italy one summer to study the 15th century garden of the Villa Docci in Tuscany. Inspired by hints dropped along the way and casual remarks by others, Adam becomes committed to the notion that the garden, with its mythological and literary references and statues of Roman deities, is more than simply a memorial from Docci centuries ago in honor of his deceased wife. In fact, it may hold clues as to how she actually died. And in interpreting these clues, Adam is drawn to disturbing evidence of a more recent murder. Much as the central character, Adam, meanders again and again through the Docci garden, I have to admit, I felt initially that Mill's novel meandered a bit much. But eventually I came to appreciate the gentle pace of the story, as well as the intriguing dual mysteries that had taken place in the Docci villa and garden. I found this to be a very enjoyable read indeed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a cut above most mysteries. It concerns two murders, separated by centuries. The author draws from Greek mythology, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Darwinian evolution to present a spellbinding novel mystery lovers will appreciate. All the threads are drawn together neatly in a surprising conclusion. Be prepared for an excellent read, and be sure to check out the sketch of the garden at the beginning of the book.
Toros More than 1 year ago
Adam Strickland, a somewhat wayward student from Cambridge, is sent by his professor to Italy one summer to study the 15th century garden of the Villa Docci in Tuscany. Inspired by hints dropped along the way and casual remarks by others, Adam becomes committed to the notion that the garden, with its mythological and literary references and statues of Roman deities, is more than simply a memorial from Docci centuries ago in honor of his deceased wife. In fact, it may hold clues as to how she actually died. And in interpreting these clues, Adam is drawn to disturbing evidence of a more recent murder. Much as the central character, Adam, meanders again and again through the Docci garden, I have to admit, I felt initially that Mill's novel meandered a bit much. But eventually I came to appreciate the gentle pace of the story, as well as the intriguing dual mysteries that had taken place in the Docci villa and garden. I found this to be a very enjoyable read indeed.
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Muggsy More than 1 year ago
Maybe you're read similar plots. The main character has tons of knnowledge of some great well-known work of literature, in this case Dante's Inferno. He uses the literature to solve the mystery. What makes this book kind of special is the mystery is a garden - and a building - and he is finding out the real story behind the layout of the garden which is also connected to this beautiful house. Where a murder took place during WWII which he also proceeds to unravel. Pretty neat plot, very well written book, nice romance too. A chick book with enough panache to suit the male reader as well.
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GuinnessKW More than 1 year ago
The story evolves around a garden located in Italy and the story of what happened at the estate centuries before. A student from the UK is sent to the garden to decipher what the garden means and why it is there. The underlying story has the old family of the estate fighting over its future and a murder that occurred there just years before. It's a very good read, the historical references to myth and Roman gods is very interesting. I'd recommend it.
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