Australian author Lisa Clifford’s Death in the Mountains is a true story about the murder of a peasant farmer in the mountains of Casentino in north eastern Tuscany. The murder took place in the winter of 1907, it happened to the great-grandfather of Lisa’s Italian husband and it was never solved – until now.
Detailing the crime, Death in the Mountains also looks at what life was like a hundred years ago. The story paints a very real picture of the struggles, the poverty and the mezzadria farming system that engulfed seventy percent of the Tuscan farming community. Back then, families had to give half of everything they produced to the land’s owners.
The other half was barely enough food for survival. Only one or two generations ago, peasants lived in grinding poverty.
Clifford describes the stark living conditions, snow blowing through roof tiles into bedrooms, the backbreaking nature of the daily work, the lottery of good or bad weather for crop and ultimately family survival. Only one or two generations ago, peasants lived in grinding poverty.
Clifford describes the stark living conditions, snow blowing through roof tiles into bedrooms, the back breaking nature of the daily work, the lottery of good or bad weather for crop and ultimately family survival. The reader feels the cold, the damp and grimness of everyday existence, but also the determination and spirit of that generation.
The quest to solve this murder opens Lisa’s eyes and ultimately our eyes to how people thought back then. A murder was something to be ashmed of not for the murder but for the family of the person murdered. There is much insight into the culture, superstitions, religion and taboos of the times.
After three years of research Lisa solves the murder. She discovers a cousin who holds the key to the mistery and reveals the killer and why it happened. he gives his permission to write the book on the proviso that all the names be changed.
About writing the book, Clifford says, “In an emotional sense, writing Death in the Mountains gave more than I had bargained for. The killing of Grandpa Artemio was a big event in the family village… When I talked to the old people, cousins, and the ederly farmer folk who still live nearby, they recalled with great clarity what their past relatives had said about the famous murder of Artemio Bruni.
In 1907, almost everyone who worked the land was illiterate, so there was a lot of gossip, but no letters or journals to refer to. It was only by talking with people that I could figure out what happened in the onths leading up the murder”.