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by Lucretia Grindle
Felony & Mayhem, December 2011
448 pages
ISBN: 1934609862

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Set in Florence, this atmospheric novel (written in the tradition of authors like Daphne Du Maurier) tells the story of a woman haunted by the past. Upon her return to the city, everywhere that she looks, Mary sees echoes of the tragedy that befell her. Some years earlier she had first visited Florence with her husband, a Quaker educator in an exchange program. On a summer's day trip to the Boboli Gardens with her husband's colleagues, Mary wanders off, only to be savagely attacked in a deserted part of the gardens before her husband can rescue her. That rescue resulted in his death.

Now, Mary has returned to Florence to pursue an adult education course in art history, but everywhere she turns, she comes across stories of women attacked in just the same way. According to the Florentine police, her husband's attacker is dead, but if so, why do these new cases keep popping up?

Along with her journalist boyfriend, Mary is soon on her own investigative hunt to learn the secret that connects all these murdered women. On the path to the discovery of that answer, author Lucretia Grindle provides her readers with a rich story and an insider's guide to the beauty and history of Florence. The city can be by turns both enchanting and frightening, and Grindle uses the eeriness to create a very haunted tale of death and religion.

Best of all, Grindle keeps the suspense going until the very end of the book, and wraps all the pieces up neatly. While there may be red herrings to lead readers off the trail, unlike some lesser works, in this novel, every character is used well to enrich the story and enhance the ghostly atmosphere. Everyone in Mary's life raises suspicion, and everyone could be innocent. That is the brilliance of this plotline and what makes the book so enjoyable.

Of course the Florentine history and the beauty of its Renaissance art add to the richness of the telling. THE FACES OF ANGELS takes all the elements of what makes Florence so special, combines them with a contemporary murder mystery, and comes away with a very enjoyable read for mystery fans.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, December 2011

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