The Villa of Mysteries, by David Hewson

An American couple, on holiday in Italy, stumble across the body of a young girl, which appears to date back to Roman times and has been preserved in peat. But it soon transpires that the girl has only been in the bog for about ten years, and so the ritualistic aspects of her death take on a more sinister meaning, especially as another girl of almost identical appearance is abducted close to the anniversary of the first girl's disappearance...

With the book's title, and the reader (Christopher Kay) having a very straight-laced English voice, I was expecting an Agatha Christie type story. In fact I think I've heard this bloke read stuff before, Wexford maybe? But the book tried to be a bit darker than that. Unfortunately, it was rather let down by Kay's inability to do American or Italian accents very well, and generally sounding too refined for some of the subject matter.

Looking back, the ingredients for the book are quite promising: the putative secret cult that steals young blonde girls away for some kind of bacchanalian party once a year, an Italian crime boss who's got problems keeping his young wife and son happy, and a couple of cops with personal problems. But it just didn't seem to work. I think the main problem (apart from the reader) was that it was just too long. The book took 14 CDs and I think could have been edited down to 10. There was too much not-very-interesting back story and not enough plot. And it wasn't the sort of thing you could have worked out ahead of the characters.

Not worth bothering with any more by Hewson.

Completed : 02-Feb-2006 (audiobook)

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