An idyllic village in the alps.
A legacy of sin.
An evil lurking in the woods.
In a quiet village surrounded by the imposing Italian Alps, a series of brutal assaults take place.
Police inspector Teresa Battaglia is called in when the first body is found. Soon more victims are discovered – all horrifically mutilated – and when a new-born baby is kidnapped, Teresa’s investigation becomes a race against the clock.
But Teresa is also fighting a battle against her own body, weighed down by age and diabetes, and her mind, once invincible and now slowly gnawing away at her memory…
Delighted to be rounding off the blog tour today for Flowers Over The Inferno by Ilaria Tuti. my thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me on to the tour and to Virginia Woolstencroft of Orion for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
This is the debut novel by Ilaria Tuti, and the first novel featuring Detective Teresa Battaglia, and I have to say it is impressive to see such a strong and unique novel coming from the pen of a brand new author. Everything about this book is accomplished and confident, you would be forgiven for believing that this is a writer who has been doing this for years.
There is so much to enjoy about this book if you are a fan of the Euro-crime genre. Firstly, and probably the strongest aspect of this book, are the main detective duo. Teresa Battaglia is a really refreshing change to the standard grumpy male or feisty, young, ambitious female detectives you find carrying these stories. A woman of middle years, not beautiful, not thrusting, not particularly stand out in any way except through her intellect, her dedication to her job and the devotion she inspires in her team. I absolutely loved her, and was willing to follow her through whatever ups and downs she might face throughout the novel. She is brutal and forthright in her opinions, no nonsense, dedicated. She has personal issues, health issues, issues with relationships, but battles all these quietly and with dignity to get the job done.
She also does not suffer fools gladly, which appears to be a problem when she gets a new, young, male wet-behind-the-ears inspector to add to her team. To begin with there is the usual chalk and cheese friction between the two, but this has the makings of a great partnership for future books and the two will find that their differences can be an asset, as they have lots to learn from each other.
There is a great supporting cast for this book, but these two carry the book, along with the third standout star of the novel, which is the setting. Forget Scandi-noir, here we have Italy as a back drop for the drama, but not the picturesque coastal towns of Amalfi or Sorrento or Portofino; not the glamorous cities of Rome or Venice or Florence; not the rural beauty of Tuscany or the Italian Lakes. This is the remote, forgotten, mountainous area on the Italian-Austrian border which very rarely has the literary spotlight shone upon it. This author, however, obviously has a great fondness for the region, she brings it vividly to life throughout the book, illuminating the forests, gorges, peaks, rivers and isolated villages making the landscape an integral part of the story, a character in its own right.
The setting of this book is what gives it its atmosphere, and that atmosphere is deeply claustrophobic and unsettling. This is a place cut off from the outside world to a large degree. They are insular, superstitious and extremely suspicious of outsiders. Protective of their community and any perceived external threat, they close ranks and shut out interlopers, protecting their secrets, even if that means protecting a serial killer from the police. This makes the investigation more complicated, and the diplomatic skills of Teresa Battaglia vital to crack the case. The area is sparsely populated, mountainous, heavily wooded, large areas unexplored or long forgotten. The intrusion of the modern world into this ancient wilderness, upsetting the dynamics unchanged for centuries, is one of the fascinating themes of the book and adds to the air of menace and threat.
The case itself is gruesome and deeply disturbing. It is hard to say too much about it without including any spoilers in the review, but there are links to unpleasant echoes of a unedifying era of the area’s past. Some aspects of the book are quite graphic and upsetting, but the plot is completely gripping from start to finish and the reader will find it very hard to break away from the story without finding out what happens. I am still thinking about the plot, even now the book is finished and I have moved on to my next read. There are some moral questions raised in the book that will get you thinking more deeply than is often the case in a standard crime novel, a deeper dimension to the narrative.
The book is written from a few different perspectives, in a variety of time periods, and through different mediums, such as diary entries. As it hops around quite a lot, I did find it tricky to keep up in places. Some of this was due to the way my review copy was formatted on my Kindle I think, but I do believe that this is one of those odd books that would be more easily and enjoyably read in physical format, rather than on an e-reader. Fortuitously, this is also a book where I would suggest that the story is worth the investment in an actual book. This was something new and different and interesting din would highly recommend it. A brave new voice in the crime genre.
Flowers Over The Inferno is out now and you can buy a copy here.
To follow the rest of the tour and read some alternative reviews of this book, check out the blogs on the poster below:
About the Author
ILARIA TUTI lives in Friuli, in the far north-eastern part of Italy. FLOWERS OVER THE INFERNO, her debut novel and the first book in the Teresa Battaglia trilogy, was a top 10 bestseller on publication and the biggest debut of 2018 in Italy. Rights for the novel have been sold in over 15 countries, making her one of the most internationally successful Italian authors of recent years.
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