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The Savage Garden

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  6,307 ratings  ·  643 reviews
The story of two murders, four hundred years apart - and the ties that bind them together.

From the author of the acclaimed national bestseller Amagansett comes an even more remarkable novel set in the Tuscan hills: the story of two murders, four hundred years apart-and the ties that bind them together.

Adam Banting, a somewhat aimless young scholar at Cambridge University,
Paperback, 388 pages
Published 2007 by Harper
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Average rating 3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,307 ratings  ·  643 reviews

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Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Savage Garden is an engrossing and intriguing story, but what raises it to another level are the very clever links with neoclassical literature, especially Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy. The soul’s journey towards God from Inferno (Hell), through Purgatorio and onto Paradiso (Heaven) is one of the oldest classics. I recently discovered that an Irish monk, Marcus wrote his book, The Vision of Tundale two centuries before Dant's Inferno and tells of the 9 levels of torture towards h
Sep 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, very-british
Entertaining read, though not always challenging enough for me and here and there a bit predictable and even a bit boring at times for me. All in all, an enjoyable pretty good read. 3 stars.
A quick, easy and absorbing read with a mildly compelling plot and an interesting cast of characters. I wasn't too impressed with the quality of the writing, though; one of the reviews quoted on the jacket makes the rather outlandish claim that it's of Booker nominee standard, but there's noticeable repetition of several phrases, the sex scenes are frankly terrible, and the dialogue is littered with slang that I don't think would have even existed in 1950s Britain, let alone been understood by a ...more
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
3.5 stars, more or less, but gets an extra half star for mentioning things I love (in no particular order):

ancient villas in Tuscany
good wine
la fiorentina (T-Bone steak, Tuscan style)
The Boboli Gardens
the Dorothy L. Sayers translation of The Divine Comedy
The Bomarzo Gardens
natural hot springs

I would have been just as happy without the sex, but that's just me.

A decent mystery, nice story telling. Motivations and plot a little thin at the end, but not so as you'd notice overly much.

A nice r
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art lovers, people interested in classical studies, mystery readers
Andrew Strickland is a somewhat unfocused art history student at Cambridge University. His work is rather lackadaisical, drawing heavily on his source material without coming to many original conclusions. He prefers to spend his days drinking with friends and has given little thought to his thesis. After all, it’s not due for a year.
Everything changes when Andrew’s mentor, Professor Leonard, assigns him to a special summer project. The owner of a famous memorial garden in Tuscany has requested
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading this book I was torn between digging up my old art history books, brushing up on my classics, and running off to a villa in Italy, hopefully one with an amazing sculpture garden. The plot unfolded beautifully and with bits and pieces of the classics and art intertwined with descriptions of this amazing garden. An art history lesson tucked into a mystery. Now if I could just find that villa in Italy....
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
At a glance this book is an interesting blend of art, history and mystery. However as you begin reading it, it turns out to be a total disappointment.

First of all, there are shabby dialogues...gosh! I just can't believe, that those phrases, that the main characters employed in their daily life, can be called dialogues at all. For ex,

“It’s different.”
“The sound.”
“I don’t know.”

This is, undoubtedly, a real "masterpiece"! And suchlike dialogues are everywhere!

Then there is the main cha
This had the potential to deliver a riveting mystery but fell short for me. The synopsis on Amazon is comprehensive so no point in rehashing the plot although the main character is Adam Strickland not Adam Banting as shown in the synopsis. There are two mystery components on offer which I normally enjoy but the mystery involving Flora and her husband were not well developed. Loved the setting of Tuscany but this paled in comparison to The Whaleboat House in terms of mystery and characterisation.
Note to self: you didn't like this book. It is tedious for several reasons. Firstly, I'm not in to Greek or Roman mythology and sadly this is central to the story. Secondly, it's set in 1958 but you keep forgetting because this isn't tied in to the tale enough. Thirdly, what are the three sex scenes about? They seem to be written in a different voice by a different author. Fourthly, the writer is really mean about giving the reader clues to help you piece together the crime (or maybe I missed th ...more
Oct 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: thriller readers/mystery fans
Shelves: favorites
This book uses the magic and allure of Tuscany to its advantage by setting a taut mystery within one of the region’s gardens. Mills does a great job of setting the stage for his mystery…which is much more psychological than action. Mills’ main character, Adam Strickland, is a Cambridge grad student who is given what appears to be the assignment of a lifetime. While in the gardens of Tuscany which he is to write about, he uncovers a mystery several centuries past. This mystery of long ago leads h ...more
Jul 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
Too dull to keep reading. It's kind of hard to get excited about a mystery featuring Art History majors obsessing over the arm positions of statues and what they might mean. Maybe there was more to the book but I couldn't find any of it in the first 80 pages.
Sarah Norman
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Well, this is one of those books that makes me feel like I better become an author. Seriously, can any old crap become a bestseller? If so, let me start writing. That's a bit mean, but DUDE. It was a bit rubbish.

It tells the story of a young man who as a university project goes to study a Renaissance garden in Italy. It's written in the past, and opens with him in university, and the narrator says of his past self: "Try as he might, he couldn't penetrate the workings of that stranger's mind, let
Jul 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
I agree with many of the other reviews: slow paced, but the atmosphere and the story's setting in beautiful Tuscany, a place I have visited, created by Mark Mills more than makes up for the pacing. It is also extremely erudite: a cultured and well-written story. Well done Mr. Mills. I enjoyed it.

ADDENDUM: Coming across this book again in sorting out a few bookshelves (in real life), I re-read it. The reason being that it turned out the author had successfully evoked images in mind when reading i
Rachel Burton
Oct 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction, 2007
Another book about a house with a dark past -- and another reference to Jane Eyre!

Set in Tuscany in 1958, Adam - an art history undergrad - goes off to stay at a villa to study the sculpture in the gardens for his thesis. As he uncovers the message of the gardens, and subsequently a crime committed 400 years ago, he also begins to uncover a similar crime much closer to home.

Whilst the plot is a little far fetched, this is beautifully written and the descriptions of the Tuscan landscapes, and th
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A literary mystery that had me completely absorbed.

It's 1958 and Cambridge art-history postgrad Adam Strickland, recently dumped by his girlfriend, is persuaded by his tutor that the topic of his thesis should be a memorial garden in the grounds of an Italian villa. Once arrived, Adam discovers the garden is strangely haunting -- that it's by no means just a random repository of sculptures, that everything in it has a meaning and contributes to the telling of a story . . . to, in fact, the confe
May 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Despite the very slow pace of this novel I found it hugely atmospheric. Maybe especially so because I know some of the places mentioned personally, A particular favourite being Bomarzo, The Sacred Wood.

Will definitely appeal to lovers of Italy, Gardens their histories and thrillers. It was only my interest in these first two that kept me turning the pages at first because I found I was almost halfway through before the mystery pulled me in properly. I was pulled in very slowly by the mystery of
Izabella (Pages Full of Stars)
I was a little wary about this book, since it has a lot of mediocre reviews but it actually surprised me! It wasn't the best book I read this year, but it was really engaging and enjoyable. It has a lot of elements that I recently grew to like - a family mystery, an old building, a mysterious garden. The mystery plot was my absolute favourite thing about it and I loved all the connections to the Greek mythology. It made me glued to the book, because I wanted to find out the truth really badly an ...more
Apr 05, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: someone who is going on holiday to Tuscany and has already read The Enchanted April
Shelves: world-war-ii
I read this for a book group and hated it. There are so many plotholes and unfinished elements. You get the feeling that the writer read the Da Vince Code and thought he too could write a thriller based on his knowledge of art history. The result is far from thrilling though; the characters are not believable(particularly the female ones), the plot is highly contrived and even more unbelievable than the characters and the ending is rushed. On the plus side, the descriptions of the garden and of ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it
If you've forgotten how entertaining a gothic romance can be, this is the book for you. "The Savage Garden" is a direct descendent of Wilke Collins' "The Woman in White" and that's a darn good pedigree. And I would also call this an adult version of a childhood favorite, "The Secret Garden." In this gothic romance, Mills oddly manages to have his hero running through the woods in underwear and boots as opposed to the traditional barefoot young lady heroine in a flowing nightgown. (And how, exact ...more
Kristen Freiburger
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book in 2007. I stumbled across it again and am happy to say, I enjoyed it 11 years later.
A very enjoyable mystery set in Italy. Two mysteries entwined in one house that a young student discovers with some peril to himself along the way.
I've heard of cold cases before, but four hundred years apart? I didn't read the blurb before reading the book or I'd have known this, so I was quite surprised to discover this and that they were somehow connected. I've always wanted to go to Italy, so when Adam Strickland goes there to study a specific type of garden to write a thesis, I was more than happy to read on.

I was surprised by how much this story was able to provide and such a variety of subjects it covered: obviously gardens but the
The Savage Garden, the second novel by British author Mark Mills, is a literary mystery in the tradition of juxtaposing historical and contemporary events. Set in the post-World War II era, it focuses on Cambridge student Adam Strickland who is in search of a subject for his art history thesis. His mentor suggests that he research an Italian garden found on the estate of Signora Francesca Docci. The garden was built by the villa's first owner, Federico Docci, and has been recognized as a tribute ...more
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Cambridge student Adam Strickland is handed the opportunity of a lifetime, a two week trip to Tuscany to study the 17th century garden at the Villa Docci. Never before studied, it's the perfect thesis topic. When he arrives, Adam finds both villa and garden enchanting, and somehow mysterious. The elderly Signora Docci and her granddaughter Antonella are equally charming. But as Adams delves into the garden's many enigmatic features, he begins to question the reasons behind its design. The garden ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this floating in a pool on my summer holiday, so I can't promise that my 4-star rating was more to do with the sunshine and my good mood than the book itself. It was a fun read, and I didn't miss anything if I dozed off and skipped a few pages.
Apr 15, 2019 added it
Great sense of character, setting and atmosphere. If anyone else has read this novel I want to ask this: How did you interpret the final paragraph? Without spoiling too much, I wonder if it is looking back or forward? I shall be interested to hear opinions.
Barbara Rosenthal
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A darkly provocative mystery set in the Tuscan hills; clue by clue the mystery of the ancient garden is revealed; and a more recent murder. Fun! Fun! Fun!
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A little slow at the start, a little confusing in the middle, but once finished was an intriguing mystery. I might even go back and reread because I'm sure I missed some subtle clues along the way.

"Adam Banting, a somewhat aimless young scholar at Cambridge University, is called to his professor's office one afternoon and assigned a special summer project: to write a scholarly monograph about a famous garden built in the 1500s. Dedicated to the memory of Signor Docci's dead wife, the garden is
Linda Humberstone
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a clever story but I feel the author, 'bit off more than he could chew' , and in my opinion just solving the first murder concerning the statues and myths surrounding the murder of his wayward wife by the creator of the gardens was enough to contend with. The descriptions of the Tuscan countryside, the villages, the gardens were lovely, especially on rainy afternoons here, but even so there were too many; every time he stepped out of the door you had one. Very tedious in places and
a lon
Jul 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
1,5 stars.
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2015 Reading Chal...: Savage Garden by Mark Mills 1 22 Jun 22, 2015 02:22PM  

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Mark Mills is a British writer of screenplays and novels. His first screenplay was BAFTA-nominated short film One Night Stand starring Jemma Redgrave and James Purefoy in 1993; this won Mills a 'Best Screenplay' award at the Angers European First Film Festival in 1995.
Mills's first novel was Amagansett, later reissued under the title The Whaleboat House published in 2004; this won him the 'Best Cr

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