Select one of the keywords
The Night Villa    by Carol Goodman order for
Night Villa
by Carol Goodman
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Carol Goodman gives us something very different from the usual archeological mystery in The Night Villa, a richly layered story that begins and ends with a bang, a major shock to both protagonists and readers. The story opens on Dr. Sophie Chase chatting with one of her 'most promising classics majors' at the University of Texas, classically lovely Agnes Hancock, just prior to the Classics Department's summer internship interviews for Dr. Elgin Lawrence's Papyrus Project. Agnes plans to talk on 'the role of women in mystery rites.' Said interviews are rudely interrupted by Agnes's needy ex-boyfriend, Dale Henry, who shows up with a gun and starts shooting, killing two professors and wounding another.

Sophie has her own problems in her personal life. After her live-in boyfriend Ely became obsessed with a Pythagorean cult, the Tetraktys, Sophie had a brief fling with Elgin Lawrence, 'Professor Romeo', after which Ely left her to immerse himself in the cult. Now, Lawrence convinces a reluctant Sophie to join his Papyrus Project at the Villa della Notte in Herculaneum, where scrolls (preserved by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79) are being discovered, that provide details of the life of slave girl Petronia Iusta and of first-century Roman historian Phineas Aulus, who was shipwrecked off Herculaneum. Iusta, who was involved in a historic court case, has been the focus of Sophie's research.

Sophie joins the project which is being funded primarily by software billionaire John Lyros, who has built a replica of the Night Villa, in which the researchers stay, on the nearby isle of Capri. When she arrives, Agnes and Elgin Lawrence are already there, along with other researchers. The story continues with the discovery and translation of further scrolls, with tantalizing revelations of Phineas and Iusta's participation in a mystery rite just around the time of the Vesuvius eruption. But all is not as it seems with this group - there is a death; Sophie discovers that the FBI are investigating Tetraktys interest in the project; an insider is betraying secrets; and soon Ely sails back into Sophie's life.

It's a wonderful read, with Iusta's historical tale pulling reader interest through the story just as much as the modern mystery, a heroine involved in a romantic triangle with three men, and a most surprising denouement. Don't miss The Night Villa, an excellent and satisfying read.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews