Thursday, April 16, 2020

Book Review: The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: April 7, 2020
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It feels like a fairy tale when Alberta ”Bert” Monte receives a letter addressed to “Countess Alberta Montebianco” at her Hudson Valley, New York, home that claims she’s inherited a noble title, money, and a castle in Italy. While Bert is more than a little skeptical, the mystery of her aristocratic family’s past, and the chance to escape her stressful life for a luxury holiday in Italy, is too good to pass up.   At first, her inheritance seems like a dream come true: a champagne-drenched trip on a private jet to Turin, Italy; lawyers with lists of artwork and jewels bequeathed to Bert; a helicopter ride to an ancestral castle nestled in the Italian Alps below Mont Blanc; a portrait gallery of ancestors Bert never knew existed; and a cellar of expensive vintage wine for Bert to drink.  But her ancestry has a dark side, and Bert soon learns that her family history is particularly complicated. As Bert begins to unravel the Montebianco secrets, she begins to realize her true inheritance lies not in a legacy of ancestral treasures, but in her very genes."

Things aren't going well for Alberta (Bert) Monte.  She recently suffered a miscarriage and has separated from her husband.  Then she receives a mysterious letter from Italy saying that she is the last living descent of a noble family.  She convinces her husband to come with her to Italy to check it out as the trip is all paid for by the Montebianco family, which she, apparently, is a part of.  There is even a castle that she inherited! Who wouldn't want to check this out?  But once she is there, she realizes that the castle isn't in some gorgeous Italian village, but instead it's in a remote snowy location in the Alps without cellphone service. In fact, during the winter, you can only get to it by helicopter!  This is where things go downhill for Bert. Her husband returns home and she is left there with a cast of eccentric characters.  The more Bert uncovers about her ancestors, the more she wants to leave the castle.  There's even talk amongst the people that there's a monster the lurks in the woods that has scared the townspeople for years.  Before too long, Bert wants to go back home far away from the dark family secrets that she uncovers.  Danielle Trussoni's The Ancestor is a Gothic thriller that involves family secrets, DNA, and a dark mystery that has plagued the Montebianco family for decades.

Bert is a complicated character in The Ancestor.  The more I got to know her, the more I realized that we didn't really know her and just like the Montebiancos, she also holds some secrets.  Her relationship with her husband is really strained and when she goes to Italy, she hopes that a romantic vacation will help rekindle things. I mean who wouldn't be intrigued to find out you are now a Countess and you inherited a castle with an amazing wine cellar and a property in Paris?  If this isn't a fairy tale I don't know what is.  However, things are never as they truly appear at first glance.  Things with her husband in Italy don't go as well as she had hoped, because you can't run from your problems, right? Once he returns home, she is left alone with the people who live at the castle and they are beyond weird. This is where the story takes on a more Gothic vibe.  

Regarding the Gothic elements, there's vicious guard dogs at the castle, there's a remote (and very cold) castle filled with a lot of creepy things, a strange groundskeeper, and not to mention a possible crazy relative that lives in the tower.  Then there's the whispered rumors from just about everyone about a strange creature that lurks in the woods that sounds very much like some sort of possessed Yeti.  Bert would read her ancestors diaries, letters, and notes, and slowly she uncovered a very disturbing story.  I am not a big fan of the horror genre, but I do love a good Gothic thriller and The Ancestor had many of the elements I enjoy.

However, once I started to get into the Gothic vibe of The Ancestor, the plot took another strange turn. The story got to be more of a genetic mystery where Bert tries to figure out why her ancestors have struggled with certain genetic abnormalities for years.  Could this be why she has struggled to conceive and her ancestors before her? Could this explain why her grandparents left Italy and never returned? I loved the aspect of DNA and how it played out in The Ancestor, but I wasn't the biggest fan of how the genre sort of shifted its focus to an almost anthropological way as Bert tries to figure out more about her relatives and their relations to the "monsters" in the woods.  I wasn't really expecting the story to go down this path and while I found it entertaining, I didn't gravitate towards this part of the plot like I did when the story was simply a Gothic thriller.

So, if you are looking for a thriller this spring with a fantastic Gothic vibe that is filled with a DNA subplot that reveals dark family secrets, give The Ancestor a try.  Despite my hesitancy towards the way the last half of the story unfolded, I was still completely engrossed in Bert's thrilling (and horrifying!) tale. 


  1. Yeah, I wouldn't expect a DNA subplot in a Gothic novel, but it sounds like it kinda worked?

    1. It did! It didn't go the way I was expecting, but it was still really interesting. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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