Bookmarks had a review of Mark Mills’ new book, The Information Officer, a thriller set on Malta during WWII. While I don’t often read books about war I have always been interested in (yet know little about) Malta because the Knights of Malta once owned the island where I currently live. In reading about the Information Officer many of the reviewers liked it but commented that it was not as good as the Savage Garden. I looked up the Savage Garden and it sounded interesting as well, so I decided to start there.
The Savage Garden is the story of a young Englishman who comes to Tuscany to study the famous Renaissance Garden of Villa Docci. While living with the family at the Villa and studying the garden he begins to investigate the garden’s and the family’s history and learns of two unexplained murders that occurred 400 years apart. As he delves deeper into the symbolism of the garden and becomes more personally entangled with the family things get more and more dicey for the young man. It is a mystery after all so I don’t want to give the plot away. Suffice it to say that while the murder mystery was entertaining but fairly light, I really enjoyed the mystery of the garden. It was very atmospheric and I could just see the beautiful yet crumbling villa, the now neglected once spectacular garden and the quirky family. It made me want to buy a plane ticket to Florence right away. Not great literature, not great mystery writing but an enjoyable diversion if you want a pleasant visit Tuscany without actually going there. I bet the author could bring Malta to life as well so I will probably give the Information Officer a try sometime.