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The Lost Boy of Santa Chionia

A novel

Author Juliet Grames On Tour
Read by Lisa Flanagan, Juliet Grames On Tour
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One unidentified skeleton. Three missing men. A village full of secrets. The best-selling author of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna brings us a sparkling—by turns funny and moving—novel about a young American woman turned amateur detective in a small village in Southern Italy (“Terrific” –Boston Globe).

Calabria, 1960. Francesca Loftfield, a twenty-seven-year-old, starry-eyed American, arrives in the isolated mountain village of Santa Chionia tasked with opening a nursery school. There is no road, no doctor, no running water or electricity. And thanks to a recent flood that swept away the post office, there’s no mail, either.

Most troubling, though, is the human skeleton that surfaced after the flood waters receded. Who is it? And why don’t the police come and investigate? When the local priest's housekeeper begs Francesca to help determine if the remains are those of her long-missing son, Francesca begins to ask a lot of inconvenient questions. As an outsider, she might be the only person who can uncover the truth. Or she might be getting in over her head. As she attempts to juggle a nosy landlady, a suspiciously dashing shepherd, and a network of local families bound together by a code of silence, Francesca finds herself forced to choose between the charitable mission that brought her to Santa Chionia, and her future happiness, between truth and survival.

Set in the wild heart of Calabria, a land of sheer cliff faces, ancient tradition, dazzling sunlight—and one of the world’s most ruthless criminal syndicates—The Lost Boy of Santa Chionia is a suspenseful puzzle mystery, a captivating romance, and an affecting portrait of a young woman in search of a meaningful life.
“Grames structures this deeply compelling, well-crafted mystery in a Golden Age style reminiscent of classics by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Yet the literary heart of this brilliant novel, its probing meditations on class, power, and the inevitability of crime, is rendered with the same nuance and intensity as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet.” Boston Globe

“Imagine Italy and your mind might run to Renaissance art and ancient ruins. Piazzas and porticoes. Sunshine, spritzes and espresso. A dramatically different version of the country awaits readers of The Lost Boy of Santa Chionia, one equally captivating but far more unsettling and perilous . . . The novel feints at being a thriller, but it is more consistently the coming-of-age story of a nosy, idealistic and arrogant young woman . . . Her story has plenty to teach about the potential pitfalls of good intentions and the fictional Santa Chionia is an enchanting destination.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

"I enjoyed this immersive novel of family secrets in an isolated community in Italy. Shades of Ferrante." —Ian Rankin, via Twitter

“An elaborate puzzle of mystery, crime, and romance that will resonate with readers.” —Library Journal

“A suspenseful tale . . . will please readers who enjoy stories with a strong sense of place.” —Booklist

“As a mystery, Grames’s novel is as gripping as they come; it’s also a deeply satisfying character study of an outsider learning more about a place than she’d bargained for.” Publishers Weekly (Best of Summer, Staff Pick)

“A beautiful novel, filled with riches, not the least of which are its evocative setting in the Calabrian hills, and its cast of vivid characters, large and small, who will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.” —Dan Fesperman, author of Winter Work

“Grames shines in this intriguing story of buried secrets in an isolated Southern Italian village . . . She excels at rendering the experiences of living as a stranger in a close-knit community . . . and she manages to keep the reader guessing as to the truth about who was murdered and why. This is a superior literary mystery.” Publishers Weekly (starred)
© Katherine Grames
JULIET GRAMES is the best-selling author of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in Real SimpleParade, and The Boston Globe, and she is the recipient of an Ellery Queen Award from the Mystery Writers of America. She is editorial director at Soho Press in New York. View titles by Juliet Grames

Discussion Guide for The Lost Boy of Santa Chionia

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

About

One unidentified skeleton. Three missing men. A village full of secrets. The best-selling author of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna brings us a sparkling—by turns funny and moving—novel about a young American woman turned amateur detective in a small village in Southern Italy (“Terrific” –Boston Globe).

Calabria, 1960. Francesca Loftfield, a twenty-seven-year-old, starry-eyed American, arrives in the isolated mountain village of Santa Chionia tasked with opening a nursery school. There is no road, no doctor, no running water or electricity. And thanks to a recent flood that swept away the post office, there’s no mail, either.

Most troubling, though, is the human skeleton that surfaced after the flood waters receded. Who is it? And why don’t the police come and investigate? When the local priest's housekeeper begs Francesca to help determine if the remains are those of her long-missing son, Francesca begins to ask a lot of inconvenient questions. As an outsider, she might be the only person who can uncover the truth. Or she might be getting in over her head. As she attempts to juggle a nosy landlady, a suspiciously dashing shepherd, and a network of local families bound together by a code of silence, Francesca finds herself forced to choose between the charitable mission that brought her to Santa Chionia, and her future happiness, between truth and survival.

Set in the wild heart of Calabria, a land of sheer cliff faces, ancient tradition, dazzling sunlight—and one of the world’s most ruthless criminal syndicates—The Lost Boy of Santa Chionia is a suspenseful puzzle mystery, a captivating romance, and an affecting portrait of a young woman in search of a meaningful life.

Reviews

“Grames structures this deeply compelling, well-crafted mystery in a Golden Age style reminiscent of classics by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Yet the literary heart of this brilliant novel, its probing meditations on class, power, and the inevitability of crime, is rendered with the same nuance and intensity as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet.” Boston Globe

“Imagine Italy and your mind might run to Renaissance art and ancient ruins. Piazzas and porticoes. Sunshine, spritzes and espresso. A dramatically different version of the country awaits readers of The Lost Boy of Santa Chionia, one equally captivating but far more unsettling and perilous . . . The novel feints at being a thriller, but it is more consistently the coming-of-age story of a nosy, idealistic and arrogant young woman . . . Her story has plenty to teach about the potential pitfalls of good intentions and the fictional Santa Chionia is an enchanting destination.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

"I enjoyed this immersive novel of family secrets in an isolated community in Italy. Shades of Ferrante." —Ian Rankin, via Twitter

“An elaborate puzzle of mystery, crime, and romance that will resonate with readers.” —Library Journal

“A suspenseful tale . . . will please readers who enjoy stories with a strong sense of place.” —Booklist

“As a mystery, Grames’s novel is as gripping as they come; it’s also a deeply satisfying character study of an outsider learning more about a place than she’d bargained for.” Publishers Weekly (Best of Summer, Staff Pick)

“A beautiful novel, filled with riches, not the least of which are its evocative setting in the Calabrian hills, and its cast of vivid characters, large and small, who will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.” —Dan Fesperman, author of Winter Work

“Grames shines in this intriguing story of buried secrets in an isolated Southern Italian village . . . She excels at rendering the experiences of living as a stranger in a close-knit community . . . and she manages to keep the reader guessing as to the truth about who was murdered and why. This is a superior literary mystery.” Publishers Weekly (starred)

Author

© Katherine Grames
JULIET GRAMES is the best-selling author of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in Real SimpleParade, and The Boston Globe, and she is the recipient of an Ellery Queen Award from the Mystery Writers of America. She is editorial director at Soho Press in New York. View titles by Juliet Grames

Guides

Discussion Guide for The Lost Boy of Santa Chionia

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)