Originally published January 2013
Looking for the next great mystery series? I’ve found it with Evanston author Lynne Raimondo’s debut novel, “Dante’s Wood.”
I always get a little nervous when a friend gives me a book and says, “It’s by a friend of mine.” Because if I don’t like it, I have to either man up and tell them or avoid them at all costs for about a year. Not the case with this book—in fact, it’s one of my favorite reads within the last year or so.
“Dante’s Wood” is instantly engaging, as we’re introduced to Mark Angelotti, a clinical psychiatrist at a Chicago hospital. His story is at first halting, and Raimondo takes her sweet time in giving away the sad details of Mark’s life that have brought him to where he is now—newly blind, and understandably, vacillating between anger and depression. Forced back into the game by his boss, Mark meets 18-year-old Charlie, the son of a prominent hospital surgeon and his even more prominent society wife. Charlie is mentally challenged, his mom thinks he’s being abused and his dad is annoyed by it all. Mark’s diagnosis of Charlie’s “problem” and his subsequent “prescription” is all fine and good until Charlie lands behind bars in the most sensational manner possible.
The rest of the book is dedicated to Mark’s pressing need to clear Charlie, for both reasons professional and personal. Raimondo’s story includes a fair number of characters, but not so many you have to flip back and forth to remember who’s who. The action moves swiftly, even when we’re taken in the Way Back Machine to learn more about what makes Mark tick. And readers will be drawn to care about what at first seems to be one seriously grumpy dude.
It was nearly impossible to tear myself away, and the sleuth inside my head was kept busy guessing whodunit until the very end. And it’s a hot mess—in the very best way. I love when a mystery doesn’t end neatly. If I had any request, it would have been to see a little bit more of Charlie—I want to care about him as much if not more than Mark.
“Dante’s Wood”—perfect for a long weekend, beach book over Spring Break, or just something to read in between soccer games and swim meets. Get in on the ground floor with this series, you won’t be sorry.