Show me a novel set in Italy and my bags are already packed and I’m ready to read, but throw in a 2000 year old murder-mystery, combined with a dash of modern-day travelogue, a romantic interest, a philanthropic billionaire, a cult-shooting on a college campus and you’ve got me hook, line and sinker.
Carol Goodman’s book The Night Villa by Ballantine Books is an elegant literary thriller that has enough Italian and Latin sprinkled in to make one feel like they are doing some intelligent reading, but not so much that you lose the sensation of guilty pleasure that comes from a good airplane read.
The novel is set in the Roman village of Herculaneum that was destroyed by the same Vesuvius volcanic eruption that buried Pompeii and the plot intermingles the past and present, returning to this locale in both the year 79AD and modern times.
As a history lover I’m enchanted by the author’s descriptions of the days leading up to and after the eruption of Vesuvius, reveling in enough realistic details that I can almost smell the sulfur as I turn the pages and, as a traveler familiar with the landscape of the region, feel the lemon-kissed sun on the nape of my neck as I read.
Always one to love a book that exposes me to something new, I was interested as the philosophy of Pythagoras weaved into the text in suprising ways involving a modern-day cult, a campus shooting alongside plenty of historical anecdotes. The author gave enough philosophical details to sufficiently give me a winning edge in a future heated game of Trivial Pursuit, but just when a yawn started crawling at my throat over a Pythagorean theorem, Goodman lured me back to attention with descriptions of the erotic Roman artwork found in Herculaneum and descriptions of unusual (and oh-so-naughty) practices and rites that could have come straight off the HBO series Rome.
They call the book "literary," historical and travel fiction – but, in my opinion, at its heart The Night Villa is a romantic thriller. One never forgets that the book name translates as Villa della Notte and those saucy Italian words roll around the tongue, giving the novel a taste of la dolce vita. I’m left dreaming of the good life and counting the days til my next trip to Italy.
"The Night Villa" is available for purchase HERE
Review by Toma Clark Haines: The Antiques Diva & Co
Toma Clark Haines is The Antiques Diva® author of the blog The Antiques Diva, Chief Executive Diva of The Antiques Diva® & Co offering European Antique Shopping Tours and a simply sensational online antiques and vintage store. Find out more at www.antiqueasdiva.com