Biblioshelf Musings – The Savage Garden

Hello Bibliofriends,

There are so many hectic things going on in my life right now that I’m getting waaaayyyy behind on all of my scheduled blog posts! 🙈 Normally, I get into a good habit of scheduling posts a week or two in advance but with a house clearance and Parents’ Evenings at work there has been very little time for reading or blogging! 🙃

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills is a book I picked up at an English language bookshop whilst visiting my friend in Lanzarote. I was immediately sold by the fact that the story is set in a large Memorial Garden near Florence in Italy (my favourite city ever!) and bought it straightaway. I’ve been trying to get through my gigantic, colossally mammoth large collection of books as part of my house clear-out so it seemed a perfectly good time to pick this one up.


Book: The Savage Garden by Mark Mills
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 388
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

The story of two murders, four hundred years apart – and the ties that bind them together.

From the author of the acclaimed national bestseller Amagansett comes an even more remarkable novel set in the Tuscan hills: the story of two murders, four hundred years apart-and the ties that bind them together. 

Adam Banting, a somewhat aimless young scholar at Cambridge University, is called to his professor’s office one afternoon and assigned a special summer project: to write a scholarly monograph about a famous garden built in the 1500s. Dedicated to the memory of Signor Docci’s dead wife, the garden is a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. But during his three-week sojourn at the villa, Adam comes to suspect that clues to a murder are buried in the strange iconography of the garden: the long-dead Signor Docci most likely killed his wife and filled her memorial garden with pointers as to both the method and the motive of his crime. 

As the mystery of the garden unfolds, Adam finds himself drawn into a parallel intrigue. Through his evolving relationship with the lady of the house – the ailing, seventy-something Signora Docci – he finds clues to yet another possible murder, this one much more recent. The signora’s eldest son was shot by Nazi officers on the third floor of the villa, and her husband, now dead, insisted that the area be sealed and preserved forever. Like the garden, the third-floor rooms are frozen in time. Delving into his subject, Adam begins to suspect that his summer project might be a setup. Is he really just the naive student, stumbling upon clues, or is Signora Docci using him to discover for herself the true meaning of the villa’s murderous past?

My Musings

Now I’m not just saying this because it’s set in Italy but the setting and the Memorial Garden featured in this novel really hooked me in – right from the map of it on the very first page! The fact that the whole plot basically spirals out of the design and layout of a garden was a pretty unique concept and it’s probably this element of the story that I enjoyed the most.

Like with my love of treasure hunts and all things Robert Langdon-esque, the way each of the statues and groves related to Greek mythology and provided clues for the murder mysteries at the centre of the plot was intriguing – whilst the references and links to Dante added that extra layer of geeky literary goodness.

Overall, the main character Adam was a good narrator. He didn’t reveal all of his findings directly to the reader which made the suspense and guessing last a little longer, but he did reveal enough to let you wonder how he was going to then ‘tell-all’ to the other characters in the story. There was enough action and character conversation balanced with Adam’s internal dialogue to keep the pace moving quick enough. What I also loved was the way that the story didn’t just end as soon as the culprits had been discovered, there were additional twists near the end of the story which made me respect the whole book that little bit more.

If you’re on the lookout for a gently suspenseful mystery filled with a little Dante, a dash of Greek mythology and set against a glorious Tuscan landscape then you might enjoy spending a little time with The Savage Garden!


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