Two Under the Tuscan Sun

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

After Cozies, the genre in mysteries that I like best is the Academic mystery. I greatly enjoy the unfolding of the plot as the characters set about to solve a mythological/ historical/ literary puzzle while going over old records, journals, letters, and try to connect point A to point J. (A -J, it rhymes you see).

I read two recently, and strangely both of them were situated in Tuscany.

 In The Savge Garden, young scholar, Adam Strickland, moves to Post-war Italy in 1958. His project is to do research on a Renaissance garden owned by the Docci family. In the course of his research, Adam uncovers two murders, one of them, occuring but recently and involving the very family he is staying with.

In The Sonnet Lover, Dr. Rose Asher, a Renaissance poetry lecturer, moves to the Villa La Civetta to examine the truth in the local legend of Ginevra de Laura, rumoured to be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Rose is not comfortable going to a place that has some hurtful memories associated with it. As an undergraduate, Rose had spent a year at the same place and had  lost the man she loved passionately. On top of it there are suicides, murders, college politics, greed, and betrayal.

The two books should have hooked me up but somehow or the other they just fell flat. In both the books the end is too neat and tidy. All unwanted elements are done away with and the lovers are (re)united. The identity of the murderers is clear right from the beginning. I kept on waiting for that twist in the end…. but it never came.


First Line: Later, when it was over, he cast his thoughts back to the sun-struck May day in Cambridge – where it had all begun – and asked himself whether he would have done anything differently, knowing what he did now.

Title: The Savage Garden

Author: Mark Mills

Publication Details: London: Harper Collins, 2008

First Published: 2007

Pages: 388


First Line: The most thankless job on the planet might be teaching Renaissance love poetry to a group of hormone-dazed adolescents on a beautiful spring day.

Title: The Sonnet Lover

Author: Carol Goodman

Publication Details: London: Piatkus Book, 2008

First Published: 2007

Pages: 350 + 9


The two books can be ordered on the Net, I borrowed them from Delhi Public Library. The Savage Garden from the main one, opposite Old Delhi Railway Station [N MIL] and The Sonnet Lover from its Vinoba Puri branch [N GOO].


Book(s) with similar theme(s)

The Historian


Submitted for the following challenges:


Borrowed Book

Mystery and Suspense

4 thoughts on “Two Under the Tuscan Sun

  1. Don't you hate it when something happily anticipated falls flat – as you say. I hate when that happens.It happened to me this year especially near the end with three books I'd been really anticipating. One I'll be writing about next week, the other two I just didn't bother reviewing. They weren't bad books, they just underwhelmed me and I didn't feel I could say anything interesting about them.


  2. I can't tell you how disappointing it is when something like that happens. Sometimes I feel I have been so spoilt by Agatha Christie that I find other mysteries simply lacking. And, to top it all, The Savage Garden had been on my wish-list for almost two years!


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