Turn to Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery By James W. Ziskin

Apr 4, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a signed copy of Turn to Stone. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.

Despite their estranged and contentious relationship in life, Eleanor Stone finds herself in Italy accepting a posthumous award on behalf of her father at an academic symposium. Unfortunately, the man responsible for her being in Florence, Professor Alberto Bondinelli, is found by the polizia in the Arno River before she ever meets him in person.

Bondinelli’s colleagues refuse to accept that the devout Catholic would have committed suicide, and enough evidence questioning his death has the police forbidding them to leave the country. Along with her father’s last and favorite graduate student Bernie Sanger, Ellie is invited to spend the weekend at a country house retreat in Fiesole with the symposium student organizers. When not fending off the drunken amorous groping by Professor Franco Sannino, or dodging the jealous stare of the wealthy estate owner’s girlfriend, Ellie’s skills as a budding journalist have her questioning her fellow guests who all have extremely strong opinions concerning the beloved – by some–scholar.

From the moment Ellie’s seersucker-wearing seatmate lights up a cigarette on their Pan Am flight to Rome, author James W. Ziskin fully immerses readers into the lively and memorable landscape of 1963 Italy. Scenes of Ellie and her fellow guests enjoying the tantalizing regional Italian delicacies are mouth-watering, and her capacity to drink her suitors under the table with regional wines is enviable. Bondinelli’s mysterious past and accusations of fascism add layers of complexity to a man the reader never meets, yet through the recollections of his students and fellow professors he becomes a strong compelling element of the story. Faith, redemption, and trauma of war all lead towards a tragedy based on guilt and the inability to forgive.

Ellie is a very modern woman who constantly challenges the constraints of a repressive society. Even those who admire her, often assume that it is her sexuality that lands her job offers, and not her past success as a journalist or skills as a photographer. Some of the most suspenseful, and anxiety-inducing scenes are when Ellie must fend off the relentless attempts by men to force her into bed, especially when one worries that she may submit because it is expected and the easiest way out.

Because readers like Ellie so much and rarely see her as being weak, seeing her in any way vulnerable or taken advantage of is wrenching. Ellie’s biting wit and even sharper intelligence helps her to cope with being confronted with so many memories of her late father, whose approval she constantly sought, and whom she always seemed to disappoint. The use of Italian phrases and words meld into the dialogue and their contextual use makes literal translations unnecessary and may even result in readers picking up a few language skills. The 1963 setting of Italy is so vividly and compassionately depicted in this seventh of the series that readers will feel transported by a time machine to the beautiful landscape that nevertheless hides its share of ugly history.

To enter to win a signed copy of Turn to Stone, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “stone,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 11, 2020. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win-emails are deleted after the contest is over. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.

Click on this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:

You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



  1. Sounds interesting! Count me in!

  2. Turn To Stone sounds unforgettable. The intrigue, Italy in 1963 as well as the beauty of the language and the cuisine makes this book a winner. The author has written a great series.

  3. Mystery, Italy? What’s not to like!

  4. We have a winner!


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