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Murder Under the Tuscan Sun: A gripping classic suspense novel in the tradition of Agatha Christie set in a remote Tuscan castle

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We have a well-adjusted English mother/widow chaffing at her lack of activity who takes up a job in a remote Italian castle as a nursemaid/companion. Evelyn is mercurial; at one moment all smiles and happiness, lavishing affection on Constance and at another, questioning everything Constance does. A castle in Tuscany with secrets hidden in its walls, eerie music in the night, ghosts even, but are they real or a figment of Constance’s imagination? Her son James can’t believe she’s going to Italy to take up a position in a castle full of strangers, or is he just a little bit jealous? What makes this truly remarkable is that the novel was written during the Covid lockdown but not actually in Tuscany.

It has everything - sun, setting, and a cracking mystery not to mention a touching mother+don relationship (eventually! Filled with breath-taking Tuscan scenery, a sinister atmosphere and an English widow caught up in a family feud with a wandering murderer out to get her. William lives in a castle near Florence with his niece Evelyn, her husband and daughter and at first Constance is entranced by the castle, its inhabitants and the glorious Italian sunshine.At first, life in the remote castle outside Florence seems wonderful, but the longer Constance remains at the castle, the more she seems to unravel. I have loved her previous books and with her new book set just outside Florence, my favourite place to visit, and in a castle with some wonderful art and the setting of 1927 this was a book I had to read.

Evelyn seems to be a flighty young woman whose approach to her young child Nora is one of careless regret. I think I am also harder in my reaction to this book than a few others of similar themes because I have previously really liked some of the author's works. I have read previous books by Rachel Rhys and “Murder Under the Tuscan Sun”is definitely every bit as good as her earlier novels. It's notable too that this scene is set shortly after the Second World War and the main storyline examines lives irrevocably affected by the First World War – and with the shadow of fascism and all the horrors to follow looming over everything.

The storyline is split, starting with an introduction set in spring 1946, where we are introduced to a castle broken by war and then a continuation in the epilogue. But we first visit the castle with an unknown character in 1946, after German occupation has left it in a dreadful state. I have read other books by the author that I have enjoyed more than this one, and I would continue to recommend the author to fans of the historical fiction genre. As the dynamic of the group shifts over the months of William’s illness, Connie is forced to confront the fact that things in the castle aren’t as they seem – and in fact are more immediately dangerous than the gathering political storm cloud.

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