Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bella Italia, by Suzanne Vermeer

Open Road Integrated Media, ISBN 9781480443747, May 2014

The Kolwijn family--father Hans, mother Petra, and son Niels--decide to take a different kind of vacation from their usual. Instead of a resort hotel, they decide to go to a large campground in Italy that has a wide range of activities, as well as accommodations ranging from tents to bungalows. They hsettle on a mobile home, and head off to enjoy themselves.

It's a fateful choice, and as fretful as the somewhat over-protective Hans is over letting the ten-year-old Niels roam the campgrounds taking part in activities with his new friends, Thijs and Mats, his worst fears don't encompass what will happen.

Thijs's family is staying in the mobile home across from the Kolwijns' and when on the boys' third night attending the evening events together, Niels doesn't return with Thijs, they are naturally alarmed. All four of the parents set out to search, and it's Hans who finds his terrified son and his friend Mats--who is dead.

The major part of the book takes us through Niels' trauma, the strain on Hans and Petra as they struggle to do the right things for him, and the police search for the killer--hampered by the fact that Niels will not say anything at all about that night. When another young boy is killed in nearly identical circumstances, the pressures on everyone explode, and the Kolwijns have to return to Italy.

The Kolwijns are real and complicated, loving, mutually supportive, trying to protect each other so much they are not able to gain strength from each other. They can't see everything that's happening with their son, but they do listen when others tell them what they see. This family in crisis is described beautifully, in spare and convincing language.

It's a compelling and ultimately satisfying story.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.