Although "Beneath a Scarlet Sky" is a novel, author Mark Sullivan based it on the life of Pino Lella, a young Italian man who helped rescue Jews and spied on the Nazis in occupied Italy at the end of the Second World War.

It was a difficult time for Italy. Mussolini's Fascist government was collapsing. The Germans had moved in to stabilize the country but brought the brutal Nazi tactics with them. The Allies were advancing throughout Europe and bombing Milan and other Italian cities. Resistance groups organized to fight the Nazis and Fascists, but some people joined these groups to terrorize their countrymen and increase their power.

Pino was a teenager when the Germans came to Italy. He did what he could to help those threatened by the invaders. First, Pion led Jews across the mountains into Switzerland to escape almost certain death in a concentration camp. Later, he volunteered as a driver for a Nazi General to gain information for the resistance - a role that placed him in daily danger and that caused many of his friends and family to label him a traitor.

He also fell in love with the General's maid.

The story begins slowly, but the pace accelerates with each section. The suspense increases significantly when Pino volunteers to join the German Army to spy on the Nazis. After the war ends, the violence continues as the newly freed Milanese seek vengeance against any they perceive as Nazis or Nazi collaborators.

Sullivan builds the story very well. We see Pino's evolution in maturity, skill, and courage. We feel his pain when his friends assume he is working for the Nazis. His heartache is apparent when his courage fails and when he loses loved ones.

"Beneath a Scarlet Sky" is a story of espionage, action, adventure, love, and loss. It is a study of what ordinary people will do to survive and of what courage means.

How much of the book is true is anyone's guess. Sullivan based the story on his interviews with Lella, and no one has independently corroborated the tale's events. But it is dramatic, moving, and entertaining. And that is enough for me.