Spellbinding multi-layered crime novel set in a fascinating period and place. Set in the first months of 1944, Rome is declared an 'open city' as the Allies steadily get closer. The German occupying forces know their days are numbered and yet the SS, the Gestapo and the Army desperately vie for power. The partisans attack the fascists and the Germans, triggering mass-murder retaliation. Controversially, the hero is an aristocratic German officer in the Wehrmacht. With echoes of Claus von Stauffenberg, he is torn between his duty as an officer and his integrity as a human being. He must investigate the deaths of a young German Embassy secretary, a Roman socialite and a cardinal, forcing him to confront historical characters like Field Marshal Kesselring and Monsignor Montini (the future Pope Paul VI).
Pastor, born in Italy, lived for thirty years in the United States, working as a university professor in Vermont and has since returned to her native country. She is the author of other novels including The Water Thief and The Fire Waker (set in Roman times and published to high acclaim in the US by St. Martin's Press), and is considered one of the most talented writers in the field of historical fiction. In 2008 she won the prestigious Premio Zaragoza for best historical fiction. She writes in English.