Book Highlight: The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

book highlight the savage garden mark mills

Title: The Savage Garden

Author: Mark Mills

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: May 6, 2008

Genre: Mystery & Thriller

Young Cambridge scholar Adam Banting is in Tuscany, assigned to write a scholarly monograph about the famous Docci garden—a mysterious world of statues, grottoes, meandering rills, and classical inscriptions. As his research deepens, Adam comes to suspect that buried in the garden’s strange iconography is the key to uncovering a long-ago murder. But the ancient house holds its own secrets as well. And as Adam delves into his subject, he begins to suspect that he is being used to discover the true meaning of the villa’s murderous past.

Why This Book

The Savage Garden is the book that saved me from boredom during the long, dark nights when I studied abroad in Denmark one fall semester (the one listed here is the reprint; my copy comes from a previous year from a different publisher. I do not know if the reprint contains the garden map below.). I found it at the only bookstore I knew of that had books in English, and spent weeks reading this over and over. Set in the 1950s, it involves a student from Cambridge doing his thesis on a famous Renaissance garden in Tuscany, where he stumbles on a murder mystery, and the key to it might lie somewhere in this garden. It’s a massive garden, and the names of some of the locations are drawn from Greek and Roman mythology. I had so much fun exploring this garden with Adam, and I have to say I can only hope to have a big enough backyard one day so that I can create a garden not unlike this one.

garden in the savage garden mark mills


The Ludic Reader said “Mark Mills’ historical mystery The Savage Garden  is a slow, thoughtful and complex puzzle of a book that begs you to pay attention”

It’s Time to Read! gave this a 3, saying “I was a little apprehensive about this book as it is described on the back as an “atmospheric murder” and I’m a wimp – I don’t like scary books. However, it wasn’t that bad and I could have read it before bed. It wasn’t gruesome and there wasn’t too much suspense. It was a good story but I found some sections dragged a little bit as there was a lot of Greek mythology in the book and I know very little about that”

Books to the Ceiling said “This is a fast-paced, engrossing novel, but character development is not sacrificed for the sake of the plot, and the writing is very good. Mills throws healthy dollops of sex, romance, and danger into his engaging narrative and puts his obviously deep knowledge of Italian history and art to very effective use”

Curled up with a good book said “Mills does an absolutely brilliant job of coalescing Adam’s own spiritual renaissance with the threads of the wider story as he weaves together the symbolism of Greek sculpture, Renaissance literature, and the horrors of the German occupation of Italy during the Second World War”

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s | Walmart | Waterstones (UK) | Booktopia (Australia) | Books-A-Million | Flipkart (India) | !ndigo (Canada) | Kobo | Audible | Google Books | Apple Books | Thrift Books | Abe Books | Audiobooks | Dymocks (Australia) | Blackwell’s (UK) | Scribd

Check out all the other books featured this month on The Curated Bookshelf.

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