by Kirsten McKenzie
This mystery-drama is set in Florence, Italy, in 1966, amid the devastation of rising floodwaters. The entertaining story alternates between five strangers: the guest, the wife, the cleaner, the policeman, and the student. Their lives are loosely connected, although they all have differing agendas. The impending deluge threatens to expose their darkest secrets.
The time period is reflected in the ingrained chauvinism of the policeman. Some of the characters are quite unlikeable, but that only makes them more interesting and increased my curiosity about what was going to happen to them, and to uncover what secrets they were hiding.
The chapters are short and swap back and forth between the main characters, but each one is clearly labelled at the start.
The ancient city is steeped in artistic and historical treasures and, although 2 decades on, there are still ramifications from the Nazis’ wartime plunder of artwork. Ownership and possession are dealt with behind closed doors, as are forgery and theft. Passion and greed fuel many art transactions.
The prose is beautifully descriptive and paints a vivid cultural backdrop of monuments, paintings, and sculptures. The river moves through the story like the sixth character.
Towards the end, there’s a touch of supernatural, which I found rather disjointed from the rest of the book, and I wondered if the story would be better off without this element.
Overall, this intriguing story is a rich tapestry capturing events during a historical and catastrophic event. The enduring spirit of the people of Florence and their dedication to preserving their art treasures shine off the pages.
Author: Kirsten McKenzie
Publisher: Squabbling Sparrows Press
Available: paper: from all good independent bookstores, ebook: most digital platforms, see https://books2read.com/forgerandthief