Caravel Mystery Books is pleased to offer Linda’s latest novel, Signatures in Stone. Seeking inspiration in the timeless Italian landscape, four unlikely misfits
find their destinies entangled in the meanders of the mysterious sculpture garden of Bomarzo, peopled with freaks and monsters. Daphne, a writer with a hashish habit; Clive, American gigolo and aspiring artist; Nigel, an English aristocrat down at the heels; and Finestone, a fly-by-night art historian come together in a decrepit villa looked after by two Italian servants who are not what they seem. To find what they most seek, all the characters must descend into the depths of hell, but not everyone will make it out alive.

        In the hideous sculptures of Bomarzo, Daphne must face up to the hidden sides of herself while solving the mystery of a murder for which she is unjustly

accused. She will discover that her own journey to hell
has already been written sculpted by an unknown genius centuries ago in these signatures in stone. (Watch the video introducing this strange book at

ISBN 978-1-9293555-90-7

Linda Lappin is the author of two prize-winning novels,
The Etruscan and Katherine’s Wish. Born in Tennessee, she received her B.A. from Eckerd College and her MFA from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, where she also worked as a translation assistant in the International Writing Program. She currently divides her time between the US and Italy. Her essays, reviews, and short fiction appear regularly in US periodicals, and she is currently at work on a second Daphne Dublanc mystery, Melusine, set in Bolsena. See

"Signatures in Stone is a journey not only back in time to early in the last century, but also to a dramatic, frightening Italian landscape with four eccentric traveling companions in an automobile to hell. Signatures in Stone is as brilliant as it is entertaining.” - Thomas E. Kennedy, author of The Copenhagen Quartet

“In Linda Lappin's deftly written mystery of art history, sex, and murder, Bomarzo and sculpture-savvy did not prepare me for Lappin's wild phantasmagoria. The gallant heroine barely escapes the Monster Park with her hashish pipe.  Fun and witty." Margaret Sheffield, Art Critic, The Expressive Edge

"In Signatures in Stone, Linda Lappin brings all her nonpareil gifts for creating eye-catching local color, intricate plots, and menacing threats to a thoughtfully-imagined glimpse into the minds and manners of a small group of artists, blackguards, and scoundrels in 1920s Italy to keep us securely in our easy-chairs with the reading light turned on." - Tom Wilhelmus, Editor, Southern Indiana Review

"Signatures in Stone alters both consciousness and destiny, as our heroine discovers intrigue to match her own, whisked in and out of secret passageways, brought up short by startling dead ends, tickled through squeezes tight enough to threaten suffocation. The novel's a Gothic-in-Wonderland mashup, no less, with a suspenseful throb that'll keep you dancing till dawn." - John Domini, author of  Earthquake ID and Tomb on the Periphery

Some photos of the strange Bomarzo sculpture garden, the setting for Linda Lappin’s Signatures in Stone.

Comments by the Author:

Well, Daphne's story is also an initiation which starts with the sphinx and ends with the lamb, passing through the hell mouth and various other points, for which I have identified 13 main ones. What she learns about the garden is that it was a sort of book in stone, where each person became the protagonist of their own initiation narrative - gardens like these, as Finestone tells her, were designed as psychic board games/ amusement parks in which the statues represented different phases of inner development and important life events. It wasn't just to be admired, but somehow enacted and, by means of that enactment, real changes could take place in the person's psyche and outer life. That in turn is related to the essence of the baroque - artists making "machines" through which consciousness could be changed.  That is the essential discovery Daphne makes about the garden, beneath the other mysteries...

  in my novel, inner and outer events merge in the garden for Daphne, propelling her on her journey, but there are other symbols besides the statues which function as signatures marking the milestones of her journey:   the angel and the snake icon,  the symbol of the barefoot sister she finds on the map, and the lamb at the end,  all the rest are statues in the garden.  If I were to make an illustrated version of the book, these drawings would be placed at the heading of the chapters to suggest what phase Daphne is in...

My original idea was that this initiation path marked by these 13 figures is applicable to everyone, and I am now attempting to make a bit of software which would, upon click, select a card with a textual explanation -- ( all taken from the novel) which shows the quester where he or she is at any moment.  Sort of line online rune or tarot card readings.  

Shaina Mugan Reviews Linda Lappin’s Signatures in Stone

Gently Read Literature Jan. 2, 2014

Signatures: (n) that which “we are constantly immersed in… forming a network of signs and symbols whose meaning eludes us, but which, if only we could read them, would reveal every detail of our past and even predict our future.”

Linda Lappin’s Signatures in Stone boasts a remarkable knitting of mystery and romance, a delicate and intricately concocted layering of mysteries… But not a romance of men, to be sure. Instead, she displays her own romance with Italy. Lappin lures the reader into the loins of Italy, describing it with a lust for its countryside and peculiarities as one might let on about a lover, but after she has us there, sets forth unburying the absurdities of the Sacred Wood – In Bomarzo, Italy – otherwise recognized, in actuality, as the monstrous sculpture garden of the Orsini family.

What must not be neglected, and is perhaps part of the mission of the novel, is the uncanny resemblance that Daphne bears to Linda Lappin herself. Daphne, like Lappin, is a mystery novelist (whose series is also incidentally called Signatures), and of similar age and residence. Lappin is exercising the timeless maneuver of writing about writing… and writing what you know. But what can’t be denied is Lappin’s extraordinary skill with these moves, and moreover, her incredible display of multiple layering of mysteries in the piece. 102 | P a g e

Lappin fills the Orsini Mansion with a group of unlikely company – all bloated with their own mischievous internal mysteries. She recurrently complicates every situation by forcing the reader to remain in perpetual flux between trusting and doubting the narrator and protagonist, Daphne’s (the wild, middle-aged widow) judgment of reality. When Daphne is nearly fatally attacked on several occasions by an unknown assailant, we are never sure whether or not to attribute these experiences to hallucinations or some other side effect induced by her “inspiration” substances (including hashish and absinthe). It’s as though Lappin, herself is not unlike her multi-faced characters, and is manipulating the reader. We may argue that the sensation is the literary equivalent to a skewed likeness of breaking down the fourth wall, but is increasingly more complicated because as mentioned before, Lappin may very well be personified in Daphne, and therefore simultaneously can and cannot be assumed as the narrator (who is inherently, via the act of narration, assumed to be addressing the audience).

In conjunction though, with the ongoing mysteries with which she decorates her human characters, Lappin entangles the mystery of perhaps the most important character of the novel – the land, the country, and the statue garden, or as it’s referenced, the Sacred Wood. Daphne becomes consumed with the mystery of this Sacred Wood – a place that bears the death of a secretive child who drowned in a fountain there, along with countless unsolved “signatures” which Daphne feels are specific to her. She is overcome by the sensation that she was always meant to be in this place at this time, according to destiny. But one of the grandest mysteries of the garden is who gave it life – and death – to begin with, who is the artist? Furthermore, it’s said that there is a hidden treasure of the garden. But the dominant supposition is that it’s not something of the tangible realm at all. When Daphne discovers a sketch that she is convinced may be an invaluable key to discovering all the garden’s obscurities, she becomes inconsolably obsessed with solving its mysteries. Bit-by-bit, in remaining faithful to the notion that “there is no coincidence in a meaningful universe,” the mystery designedly undresses.

Review by Teri Davis:

Are there clues or signatures surrounding each of us that daily lead us to the answers?   Do we just need to be more attentive to read these signatures throughout nature and our lives?

What do you do with a gifted author who has a drug addiction?

Daphne wrote a best selling novel, Signatures, which was a mystery based on the clues, or signatures, surrounding the main character.  Since then, she usually is high and incapable of writing anything logical. With her addiction, much of the time she is useless.  Her publisher has the idea to take her to an isolated place in order to cut her off from her supplier hoping that this should give her the opportunity to again create another profitable masterpiece.

With this story set in time in 1928, what better place could be found than an isolated Italian villa.  The opportunity arose to share the rent of this ancient villa with a resident professor researching the Etruscan ruins in the garden. These ruins could even be the inspiration for Daphne's novel.

Being that Daphne is a widow in her fifties, her addiction has caused her financial situation to be dwindled down to nothing. Her publisher/manager, Nigel, controls her money now as he drives in their Packard the one hundred miles north of Rome to the area called Tuscia along with Clive, an American artist.  Daphne brings a few clothes and jewelry along with her.

As they arrive at the estate, there is an enormous locked garden.  The visiting professor, who is not around at the time of their arrival, has requested this area not to be opened until his return so that he could safely guide them and protect them from the resident vipers, both snakes and human.

The caretaker seems to be a bully and his daughter, Amelia, is expected to clean and cook which she obviously resents. Perhaps all of these are signatures, signs that are telling us something.

Daphne quickly begins to discover the secrets of the house with its hidden staircases and rooms using them in her own sexual liaisons. With the arrival of Danilo, the mysterious and dark stranger, loyalties and secrets develop in the house and the garden known as “the Monster Park.”  Besides the challenge of writing, there is also the daily distraction of not being sober  ... or being murdered.  Why?

Linda Lappin has excelled in weaving this intricate tapestry of SIGNATURES IN STONE.  Her command of the language as a poet excels with her descriptive choice of words to mesmerize the reader in this phenomenal novel. By residing in both Italy and the U.S., she expertly places the reader in Italy through utilizing the senses. Previously she has written THE ETRUSCAN, and KATHERINE”S WISH which are both highly regarded novels.  Currently she is working on her next Daphne novel entitled MELUSINE.

SIGNATURES IN STONE has the texture of a Gothic novel with the layers of the setting being woven throughout the plot. The haunting reality of not knowing whether Daphne is lucid in her thoughts or hallucinating adds an intensity to this fast-paced, eloquently elegant novel.


       - for Midwest Book Review,, Teri’s Shelf, and The Council Bluffs’ Daily Nonpareil