Catching the Light
A hawk soars above a Tuscan valley. Scattered down the hill among the olive groves is a group of painters at their easels. One of them, Rose – young, recently widowed – is unsure whether she has done the right thing to come back here so soon. But she is determined to find the key to the strange circumstances surrounding the death last summer of her young Italian husband.
Patrick, who runs the Tuscan art centre she has returned to, is wondering if she should have come back at all. He’s noticed some peculiar happenings since she arrived, and he’s not sure either of them knows what she’s getting herself into. Perhaps the skittish but faded Kitty, who’s lived here for years on a (very elegant) shoestring, can throw some light on things – if she can make it up the hill in her heels.
Meanwhile, however, the painting holiday must take its course, and Patrick has a villa full of variant characters to smooth over for two weeks – among them sisters Dill and Phoebe, tall, elegant and otherworldy, dreaming their way around the Tuscan hills until they’re brought up short by a most unpleasant encounter; Jim, an abrasive fellow whose forte is upsetting people; Isolde, an expert from Burlingtons, who’s mysteriously turning out some rather fine paintings when she’s not shooting her mouth off; and the stammering, myopic Rankine, who keeps himself (and his Gitanes) to himself and takes his painting very seriously indeed. All capably tended to by Sandy, Patrick’s resident helper and luminescent Life model, who’s in a strop – for some baffling reason – and has threatened to take a plane home at the end of the week.
Little does Patrick know that two of his students are frauds; and little do they know that what has drawn them here, though of an entirely different nature, has an important bearing on Rose’s quest. As the sweltering days pass by and each of the characters follows their own path, the layers of life in the quiet hill village are gradually peeled back to reveal a sinister underside and an unexpected and unsettling trail towards the answers Rose is looking for.
Anna Fox brings the Tuscan landscape and its inhabitants so vividly to life that you’ll want to be on the next plane out there. Subtle, humorous and absolutely delicious to read, this is an engaging mystery that weaves a cocktail of characters and many delightful strands into a surprising and satisfying resolution.