The Light in the Ruins



From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes a spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge – set in war-ravaged Tuscany.

1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what once was their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case – a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood – Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.


“Beautifully structured, written with restrained intensity and suspenseful to the end, this is both a satisfying mystery and a gut-wrenching account of moral dilemma in a time of moral struggle.”

Robin Micheli
People Magazine

“Beautifully crafted. . .utterly compelling. . .a tour-de-force murder mystery, heartbreaking romance and a dazzling denouement that will tear your heart out.”

Eugenia Zukerman
the Washington Post

“The Light in the Ruins elucidates, haunts and raises moral quandaries…Bohjalian’s historical retelling is riveting…A memorable read.”

Claudia Puig
USA Today

“An intriguing tale of Bohjalian complexity. . .The Light in the Ruins is plotted with an elegance worthy of an Etruscan. It pivots between creation and destruction, the past and the present, and the uneasy chimerical points where they collide.”

Ellen Kanner
The Miami Herald

“Addictive, fast-paced, and often frankly terrifying. . .Bohjalian has created an entertaining, thought-provoking, and disturbingly contemporary fictional world in which compassion and outrage are two sides of the same coin. . .Fling open the shutters. Settle in a comfortable chair. Lock the doors, Then turn to the first page of The Light in the Ruins and let the shadows in.”

Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“One of the fifteen best books of summer. . .A picturesque page turner.”

Good Housekeeping

“With each book, Bohjalian flexes his literary muscles, crafting a ghost story, historical fiction, and now police procedural. . .[Bohjalian] is skilled at evoking the sepia-tinged past.”

Tina Jordan
Entertainment Weekly

“The subtlety and language of a literary novelist…The denouement is dead solid perfect. Bohjalian has written another winner.”

Curt Schleier
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A spellbinding mix of history and mystery.”

Parade Magazine

“Bohjalian raises questions about the nature of injustice and the often arbitrary codes we deploy in order to keep a firm grasp on right and wrong, good and evil, or hero and villain. The Light in the Ruins offers an engaging story that unspools in such a way as to keep the reader with her nose to the pages long after the light has actually faded.”

Sheila Moeschen
New York Journal of Books

“At the heart of a good novel is a good story, and this story is a doozy. Bohjalian expertly weaves together a tale of how the war split Italy between the people who willingly collaborated with the Germans and the ones who did not. . .Not every author could manage to tell a war story, throw in a serial killer and drop in several interesting romances, but Bohjalian manages.”

Amanda St. Amand
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Haunting. . .heartbreaking. . .elegiac.”

Margaret Quamme
The Columbus Dispatch

“Bohjalian effectively blends the symbolism into the story to make readers feel tension, fear and disgust. The novel also gives readers a look at the murderous atmosphere of fascist Italy, a warped circumstance that reverberated years after the war ended.”

David Hendricks
The San Antonio Express-News

“Historic fiction at its very finest…This novel moves with the heat and inexorable flow of lava. Not to be missed.”

Edmund August
Louisville Courier-Journal

“A brilliant blend of historical fiction and a chilling serial killer story…a page-turner that the reader will not soon forget.”

Deborah Donovan

“Bohjalian subtly and skillfully manipulates our suspicions. . .trusting his readers to foment their own speculations. . .Well-researched, historically interesting.”

Julie Wittes Schlack
The Boston Globe

“Masterfully crafted…a near-perfect blend of historical fiction, mystery, and suspense.”

Brighid Moret
The Washington Times

“Bohjalian has a well-honed ability to keep his reader guessing. . .He seems to be reassuring and reminding his reader that in tragedy and unspeakable circumstances such as the destruction of homeland, family, appearance and lives, there is always the ability to see even the smallest glimpse of light.”

Melissa Firman
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Chilling. . .A gifted storyteller, Bohjalian provides his readers with yet another engaging book — a murder mystery that keeps you guessing right up to the end.”

The Missourian

“A masterpiece. . .a terrific read that will transport both long-time fans and newcomers back in time to one of the most turbulent periods in Italian history.”

Ray Palen

“Thoroughly gripping, beautiful, and astonishingly vengeful, this novel is a heartbreaker. Bohjalian’s latest turn to historical fiction is immensely rewarding.”

Julie Kane
Library Journal — starred review

“Hypnotic and harrowing, a mesmerizing read. . .Run — don’t walk — to the bookstore for this gem.”

Nicholas Addison Thomas
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“Mastering matters subtle and grotesque, Bohjalian combines intricate plotting and bewitching sensuality with historical insight and a profound sense of place to create an exceptional work of suspense rooted in the tragic aberrations of war.”

Donna Seaman
Booklist — starred review

“Mastering matters subtle and grotesque, Bohjalian combines intricate plotting and bewitching sensuality with historical insight and a profound sense of place to create an exceptional work of suspense rooted in the tragic aberrations of war.”

Donna Seaman
Booklist — starred review

“A tale so deftly conceived it lifted me out of the chaos of my syllabi-constructing, textbook-choosing, beginning-of-semester chaos and transported me into the starkly efficient mind of an Eisenhower-era killer, then to hills of Tuscany during the hear of World War II. . .an exceptionally constructed whodunit laid against a backdrop that is both elegant and volatile.”

Patricia Smith
Washington Independent Review of Books

“Bohjalian crafts ordinary characters into forceful figures that face extraordinary events. . .The Light in the Ruins will entwine readers with its descriptive writing style, graceful plotting, and sumptuous setting.”

Niles Herald-Spectator

“Tuscany is now known as a beautiful tourist part of Italy, but its story as a brutal battleground of WWII needs to be told — and is done so here on personal, familial, and social levels. Memorable, significant, and powerful historical fiction.”

Historical Novel Society

“A riveting re-creation of a time and a place long gone, but not forgotten.”

Valerie Ryan
Shelf Awareness

“A literary thriller. . .a soulful why-done-it.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A taut, suspenseful page-turner…Bohjalian effortlessly turns a work of historical fiction into a breathless whodunit.”

Wendy Plotkin
The Armenian Weekly