Cover Image: Signatures in Stone

Signatures in Stone

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed the idea of a mythical creature garden, it worked with the mystery elements. The characters were everything that I was looking for and thought they worked with the mystery elements. Linda Lappin does a great job in writing this book and I could see why this won an award.

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Signatures in Stone is an occult mystery thriller that had me on the edge of my seat until the last page.

Daphne an author from Paris with a murky past is brought to Bomarzo, Italy with her agent Nigel to seek inspiration in the gorgeous Italian countryside. Accompanying them is Clive, an American artist whose talent as a painter leaves much to the imagination. An old villa tucked away in the hills of the moody landscape is where the author's descriptive prose of the natural surroundings really brings the story to life, instilling a sense of foreboding nicely juxtaposed with the ancient setting. When the three arrive at the villa, they discover an unrefined servant named Amelia, whose odd behaviours and cold stares unsettle Daphne. Also staying at the villa is a Dr. Finestone, an academic working on a research project of the mysterious garden which becomes the main focus of this story. The garden is a long overgrown 16th century creation full of grotesque statues of mythical beasts whose purpose is unclear. The monster park will serve as labyrinth, mirror, and crime scene for the characters whose lives become synchronous with the garden's ability to hide and seek the darkness within.

This story had an occult storyline, showcasing the process of individuation through the mysterious Sacred Wood, a real life garden park from the Renaissance. The characters, specifically Daphne descend into their past, fears, desires, and secrets the more they/she explored the garden and its cryptic statuary. The writing was beautifully descriptive capturing the ancient supernatural feel of the setting and era. The story had a dark glamour about it, with its sensual lyricism, old villa, arcane secrets, and intriguing objects serving as the "signatures" or synchronistic clues leading Daphne into a philosophical investigation into the truth.

Part alchemical, part psychological, with a gothic plot and esoteric message, Signatures in Stone is a garden of delight and fright.

I will definitely be reading the author's other books as her gothic mystery writing was so unique and captivating.

If you liked The Cloisters by Katy Hays, this book has a similar vibe.

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I think it's an atmospheric and well plotted mystery featuring a cast of unlikely characters. I liked the storytelling and how the author makes the story work in a place like Bomarzo, a cross between a lisergic dream and an alchemic picture.
Well done, intriguing
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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The story is set in Italy, 1928, and is narrated in first person, past tense, by Daphne; born to impoverished landed gentry and widowed during WWI, she’s now a hashish addict living in Paris. The first chapter provides us with her backstory and the ties between her and her two companions, as they travel to a remote villa, ostensibly so she can write another book.

Originally published in 2013, this second edition was released to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Sacred Park of Bomarzo, where the story is set.

Beware: suicidal ideation; marijuana addiction; queerphobia; miscarriage.

At the beginning, the writing is vivid enough; Daphne is a woman in her mid-thirties or perhaps even forty, struggling with addiction born of depression. She lost her husband, and soon thereafter miscarried their child; a few years later, she has no other family and her only means to support herself is by writing novels that Nigel then publishes.

However, it is clear from the start that Nigel is the quintessential fraudulent small publisher; he fudges royalties and withholds advances, and eventually coerces Daphne into signing a contract naming him as her literary executor–in effect, her heir. Daphne is aware that she can’t trust Nigel, but between depression, desperation, and the long history between them, she gives in and goes along.

We then meet Clive, a young American painter who’s having an affair with Nigel, and for whose benefit the trip to Italy has been arranged. However, Clive soon seduces Daphne, which creates all sorts of tension between the three, well before they arrive to their destination: a remote villa in the Italian countryside.

Their arrival is suitably Gothic, with an absent host, two surly servants who seem to barely understand English, and a decaying mansion without electricity or running water.

The first chapter is insanely long–over ten percent of the book!–and by the time chapter two starts, I was already put off by a strong whiff of queerphobia. Not only is Nigel, the gay man, clearly a shady character, responsible for leading Daphne’s late brother to financial ruin and moral decay (and their mother to her grave), but the narrative makes a point of remarking how possessive and jealous such men are. Then there’s Clive, whose characterization ensures that we all know that bisexual men can’t be trusted.

On top of that, the writing voice became increasingly unappealing. We go from very little dialogue to no dialogue whatsoever, and then the narrative seems to jump ahead without warning, leaving holes that I didn’t care enough to try and fill in–mostly because the only character I cared about was Daphne, but spending so much time inside her head was pretty dreadful, to the point that I was actively avoiding reading on.

I finally gave up at 13%.

Signatures in Stone is a DNF.

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