The Sleeping Nymph
A Teresa Battagllia Novel #2
Translated from the Italian by Ekin Oklap
Soho Crime, September 2020
To begin with, this is not really my style of mystery– or so I first thought. A bit too poetic, too flowery, too literary for my personal taste. What’s more, having been the caretaker of, and having been there from the beginning with a victim of Alzheimer’s, I can guarantee I don’t enjoy reading about it. Too sad, too damn frightening.
Also, at the beginning, I found myself skipping some passages, several of which failed to move the story along.
But then I became hooked. The mystery involves a painting, glorious and lifelike of a beautiful young woman, which dates from World War II. When the painting is inspected by experts, one of their tests reveals that the paint contains not only blood, but matter from a human heart. The woman’s heart? Will it help identify her all these years later? Brought in on what at first seems to be an unsolvable cold case, Superintendent Teresa Battaglia and her team are sent to Val Resia, an isolated area in the Italian mountains. Not only is the superintendent suffering the first stages of Alzheimer’s, but is diabetic and overweight. How is she to cope? All her answers lie in her diary, where she records every thought, every detail of her life.
Meanwhile, another human heart from a recent kill is found guarding the valley entrance, a warning to proceed no further. More people die, fires burn evidence, Teresa’s diary is stolen and creepy things happen in the forest.
When the tension picks up and the role of suspects grows longer, the hunt to uncover the secrets in this strange valley becomes more desperate. The author masterfully brings all the aspects together and ties up the loose ends. The side stories and the lives of the superintendent’s team all become important and necessary to solving the case. I ended up enjoying this book very much, enough to put it on my best mystery list for 2020.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2020.
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Five Days, Five Dead: A China Bohannon Novel