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) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Hudson College professor Rose Asher is distraught when her favorite student apparently jumps to his death following a showing of his student film. Compelled to discover the reason behind Robin's action, Rose returns to Florence and the villa of La Civetta, where Robin studied the previous summer and where Rose fell in love with literature and Bruno Brunelli 20 years earlier. Bruno is still teaching at the villa. Its owner, Cyril Graham, is considering leaving it to Hudson College, but Bruno's wife, Claudia, is suing for ownership owing to the relationship between Bruno's mother and Cyril's father. Suddenly, everything hinges on finding the poems of Ginevra de Laura, mistress of the home's owner back in 1581, and their connection to Robin's death. Rose has a self-deprecating manner by turns charming and slightly out of tune with events around her. Still, the scholarly investigation here is fascinating; just when it seems we've gotten to the bottom of things, Goodman (The Ghost Orchid) has her protagonist traveling down another viale. Though the denouement is a bit too convenient, Goodman's fans will want to read this work, and mystery lovers should pay close attention, too.
A literature professor unveils the grim secret of a Tuscan villa in Goodman's florid fifth (The Ghost Orchid, 2006, etc.). Rose Asher, a student in Hudson College's summer program at villa La Civetta, fell in love with her professor, Bruno Brunelli. Much to her disillusionment, Bruno returned to his pregnant wife. Twenty years later, Rose, now teaching at Hudson, is recruited by Leo, a Hollywood producer, to consult on a movie to be shot on location at La Civetta about Ginevra de Laura, a 16th-century poetess rumored to have been Shakespeare's Dark Lady. The screenwriter, Robin, falls to his death from a balcony at a college cocktail party. Or was he pushed? Eyewitnesses, including Rose's current flame Mark (Hudson's president) and colleague Gene, insist Robin committed suicide when Bruno's son, exchange student Orlando, enraged by Robin's theft of his script idea, lunged at him. What exactly plagiarism-prone Robin stole fluctuates throughout: Could it be Ginevra's long lost poems? Or a letter validating Bruno's hereditary claim to La Civetta, which threatens Hudson's hopes of inheriting the villa from absinthe aficionado Cyril Graham? When the Hudson throng reconvenes at La Civetta, Bruno rekindles Rose's passion, but intrigue soon trumps romance. Inexplicably fearing that bad publicity might hurt the film project, Leo bribes Gene, his shopaholic pillhead wife Mara and Mark to keep the balcony incident quiet. Meanwhile, Rose studies the villa's pietro dure mosaic floors and their free-form motif of rose petals sprinkled in a path leading from the bridal suite. In the moonlight, these petals resemble drops of blood, symbolizing the defloration of Ginevra by the lord of La Civetta, whodecorated the bridal suite with frescos illustrating the wages of thwarted love, including stabbing, disemboweling and . . . nevermind. Mara trips fatally over ruined steps in the rose garden, and acting student Zoe swallows poison. At the risk of alienating Bruno, Rose must stop Orlando. The richly imagined setting will appeal to Tuscan sun worshippers, but the mystery suffers from lack of a credible murder motive. Agent: Loretta Barrett/Loretta Barrett Books
Praise for Carol Goodman
The Lake of Dead Languages
“A wonderfully eerie sense of place . . . deeply atmospheric.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Like Donna Tartt’s A Secret History or a good film noir [this book will] keep readers hooked.”
–People (Page-turner of the Week)
The Seduction of Water
“Truly a seductive reading experience . . . grabs the reader on the first page and holds on for the entire journey.”
–The Denver Post
“Like the best mysteries, The Seduction of Water offers puzzles and twists galore but still tells a human story.”
–The Boston Globe
The Drowning Tree
“Deftly plotted and certainly intriguing . . . infused with the sinister aura of its setting . . . The Drowning Tree has its twists and shudders.”
–New York Daily News
“[A] captivating literary mystery of secrets old and new.”
The Ghost Orchid
“Seductive . . . Goodman has a flair for the stylistic flourishes of romantic suspense.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“Compelling reading, a classic page-turner for anyone who likes to be haunted by a good story.”
–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
From the Hardcover edition.