FLOWERS OVER THE INFERNO by ILARIA TUTI
A Teresa Battaglia thriller
Published: Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 7 February 2019
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller
Swathi’s Rating: 5/5
Verdict: Stunning debut set in the picturesque Alpine painting a dark and delicious story of generation. With Teresa Battaglia, you meet a brilliant detective, and a profound and uplifting woman. ‘Creepy and moving’
In a quiet village surrounded by centuries-old woods and the imposing Italian Alps, a series of violent assaults take place. Police inspector and profiler Teresa Battaglia is called back from the city when the first body is found in the woods, a naked man whose face has been disfigured and eyes gouged out.
Teresa quickly realises that the killer intends to strike again, and soon more victims are found – all having been subjected to horrendous mutilations. When a new-born baby is kidnapped, Teresa’s investigation becomes a race against the clock…
But Teresa is also fighting a different kind of battle: a battle against her own body, weighed down by age and diabetes, and her mind, once invincible and now slowly gnawing away at her memory…
Something devastating has taken place here in these mountains. Something that requires all my investigative abilities. My name is Teresa Battaglia, I am a police chief inspector, specialised in profiling, and I walk through hell every day. It’s not my gun, nor my uniform: my real weapon is my mind.
Yet my mind is failing me. Not my body, weathered by the passing of time, nor my tormented heart.
My name is Teresa Battaglia, I have a secret that I dare not reveal even to myself, and for the first time in my life I am afraid.
8 brilliant hours is what it took to read this extraordinary novel by Ilaria Tuti. I am still carrying profound memories from the book and of the characters I fell in love with. Now, I am not sure where to begin describing this multi-layered plot.
The book opens with a backstory that date backs around 30 years ago, where we learn about a creepy institute or the ‘School’ located on a remote location on the Alps. The purpose of the story is blurry at first but develops along with the main story.
The main story is set in a fairly closed community enveloped by the Italian Alps. People are natives of the old town and are used to the coldness that falls on them throughout the year. Even the children are accustomed to the thick forest and mountains surrounding them. They live and protect each other in their own ways. All is well until a body is found on the pavement of a ski path frequented by the tourists. The male body is naked and laid out on the snow. No signs of injury except the horrific disfigurement of his face. His eyes are scratched out with bare hands and nowhere to be found.
Detective Superintendent Teresa Battaglia and her team are summoned to the crime scene and she immediately starts suspecting the killer to repeat his crime again, even though there is only one murder yet. She sees a unique profile on the killer with his animalistic way of killing, yet leaving the crime scene almost pristine and meticulated. The detective is joined by a new Inspector Marini to her team and their relationship is like a lovers quarrel, which only makes them a highly intelligent team.
Meanwhile, the readers get a picture of the back story and it’s relevance to the plot. If you find the killings to be horrific, then the past stories will make you cringe in sadness.
I am desperate to talk about three characters here: Teresa of course stole my heart with her willpower and endurance. She is mentally strong for a 60 year old with diabetes and a memory condition that seems to have no treatment in the medical field yet. The readers get to learn a bit about her past, her family and Tuti leaves at it just to pick up on her next books!
Next is the characters of the children portrayed in the book. Ilaria Tuti manages to provide a highly sentimental element to this thriller by placing it over the portrayal of children in her novel. They are in the past and in the present connected by profoundly moving stories that could make you cry your eyes out. (I really did!)
Third is the secret weapon and the antagonist of the book. YES, I totally devoured the person. You will have to read this fantastic book to know what I am talking about!
Last but not the least, the locations play a vital role in the setting of the plot and Tuti conveys her gratitude to the landscapes by describing them meticulously and spinning a dangerous layer beneath it’s lustrous beauty.
I highly recommend this book to all my fellow crime lovers and fans of women’s fiction. There is meticulous police procedurals, gorgeous setting along the Italian Alps, and multiple stories that are entwined together so that the reader is totally sucked into the book and never able to guess what is to come!
ILARIA TUTI lives in Friuli, in the far north-eastern part of Italy. FLOWERS OVER THE INFERNO, her debut novel and the first book in the Teresa Battaglia trilogy, was a top 10 bestseller on publication and the biggest debut of 2018 in Italy. Rights for the novel have been sold in over 15 countries, making her one of the most internationally successful Italian authors of recent years.
She tweets @Ilaria_Tuti