The only thing better than a novel set in Siena, Italy, is a novel set in Siena in the 1950s during the Cold War. Author Christina Lynch’s debut novel is a somewhat muddled but often clever mix of mystery, romance, and history, with a dash of spy thriller thrown in for good measure.
Scottie and Michael are newlyweds, each with a secret. Michael’s job, allegedly a American-built tractor salesman, takes him to Siena, in the heart of Tuscany. Scottie immediately embraces the food, the people, the culture of Italy, but Michael’s secret prevents him from enjoying their new home in the same way.
When Scottie’s Italian language teacher — a teenager who has a bit of a crush on the pretty American woman — disappears, Scottie takes it upon herself to try and find out what happened to her friend and language teacher. What follows is a almost-believable whodunnit.
The story is somewhat weak, and I found the ending to be a bit off-putting. Still, the setting was spectacular and fun. The author bribes her reader with stories about hearty Tuscan wines and delicious food. She tosses in funny, if somewhat sad, history about the fear of Communism following World War II and America’s self-appointed role in preventing its rise. She also gives the reader a taste of what it was like to be a woman in the 50s, or, for that matter, a man. Lynch even gives the reader a dash of the Palio — Siena’s famous horserace.
If you are a lover of All Things Italian — as am I — you will enjoy this novel.