Title: The Night Villa
Author: Carol Goodman
Release Date: August 5, 2008
Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
From the back cover:
Classics professor Sophie Chase barely escapes with her life when a gunman storms the University of Texas campus, wreaking havoc and wounding Sophie before taking his own life. Traumatized, she decides to take some time off and joins an expedition to recover ancient papyrus manuscripts charred and buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Beneath the searing Italian sun, Sophie decodes the scrolls, which narrate the gripping story of a Roman slave girl –a tale rich in intrigue, mystical rites, and murder.
But Sophie is not the only one with a keen interest in the ancient texts: A shadowy cabal of powerful conspirators has set its sights on the scrolls and will stop at nothing to recover them. On the beautiful island of Capri, a thrilling, romantic hunt ensues – an adventure that exposes the truth of what happened on the eve of the Vesuvius eruption…and puts Sophie’s life in deadly peril.
I’ve previously discussed on this blog how much I love Carol Goodman (see my review of The Drowning Tree here). Her books are always very well written and are intriguing, to say the least. There is almost always a mythological undercurrent to her works, which gives them a subtle complexity and makes it seem as though there is more than meets the eye. Her writing style is also very mysterious; her books give a haunting feeling to the reader that lingers on through the end of the book and beyond.
Being such a fan of Carol Goodman’s, I was extremely excited to receive an advance copy of her latest work, The Night Villa. First of all, let me say that the blurb above (from the back cover of the book) simply doesn’t do the story justice. There is a whole story involving Sophie’s ex-boyfriend’s involvement with a Pythagorean cult that isn’t even addressed (although it’s alluded to in the second paragraph). Though the story is a bit slow at times, there is so much going on just beneath the surface that it’s difficult to whittle down to a two paragraph summary.
I really liked the main character of Sophie. She is flawed and has a tendency to be blind to what is really going on, yet it doesn’t denigrate the character. She’s one of those whose flaws help make her a whole person. Too often in literature, character defects aren’t written well; the reader ends up hating characters who display these shortcomings. Yet Sophie’s flaws make her a better, fuller character. Though her circumstances are unique, the reader can identify with her and why she thinks the way she does. She really is a marvelously written character.
Carol Goodman’s ability to craft yet another novel which is rooted in so much history with so many mythological aspects astounds me. I don’t know how she isn’t a master of Greek and Roman mythology by this point. I can’t even begin to imagine how much research must go into her novels, but however much work is required, I’m glad the author takes the time to do it well. Her books really are unsurpassed, especially because they are so unique.
I don’t know what else I can say about Carol Goodman’s novels except to go read one if you haven’t yet. She has written a total of six novels (5 pictured below, plus The Night Villa). I would recommend starting with one of the first two and going from there. Happy reading!