In his 15 novels, Chris Bohjalian has delved into a potpourri of weighty topics, including environmental activism, medical malpractice suits and interracial adoption. Some of his more recent novels are injected with an element of mystery, and he continues on that track with his latest—a brilliant blend of historical fiction and a chilling serial killer story.

This gripping novel opens in Florence in 1955 with the brutal murder of Francesca Rosati, daughter-in-law of Antonio and Beatrice Rosati.

Serafina Bettini is part of the homicide unit investigating Francesca’s murder, and she first interviews Cristina, the Rosatis’ only daughter, who discovered the body. In only a few days her mother, Beatrice, is murdered in the same manner, and it becomes clear that a serial killer is methodically eliminating the Rosati family one at a time. Wondering if the motive may trace back to the war years when the villa was occupied for a time by supporters of Mussolini, Serafina questions Cristina about her family’s involvement with either the Nazis or the local partisans trying to sabotage the Nazi efforts, bringing up painful memories.

Bohjalian deftly ties together the stories of these two young women as the killer is identified and the long-harbored revenge is revealed. He succeeds in turning a historical novel into a page-turner that the reader will not soon forget.

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