By: David P. Wagner
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publishing Date: Sept. 2013
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: Sept. 6, 2013
This is a debut novel, and a very good one. The main character, Rick Montoya, is a translator by trade and has moved from the United States (Sante Fe, New Mexico) to Rome where he has opened a translation business. Rick meets an old friend from the American Overseas School of Rome, Beppo Rinaldi, who works for the Ministry of Culture. Beppo asks Rick to go undercover for the Ministry and try to find out who is stealing and selling priceless Etruscan antiques. As Rick is a translator who is very fluent in Italian, Beppo asks that Rick pose as an agent from a New Mexico Art Gallery to get closer to some of the antique dealers in the Tuscany town of Volterra.
Rick goes to Volterra and finds that the town “likely looked the same as it had five hundred or even a thousand years earlier.” Driving his rental car along the ancient city walls, Rick notices the stones in the walls “at this lowest level were the original Etruscan, and that there would be a higher part of the stone wall added by Romans and above this, added by Medieval Italy.”
Rick starts out early on his first day to talk to the owner of a gallery that sells artifacts and meets an employee who is an artisan who makes some of the alabaster art. Unfortunately, this worker falls or is thrown from a high cliff. Rick has just as much trouble with his next contact, who is an import/export businessman. Rick is unable to talk or even find this gentleman. There is a museum director who is not friendly to Rick and last but not least a very beautiful heiress, also an art dealer.
There is also the local law, Commissario Conti, who is Rick’s contact in the police department, who is not happy to have to babysit this outsider. However, he tends to be a very amiable sort who is looking forward to his up and coming retirement. Just when it seems that Rick and the authorities are closing in on one of the contacts, Rick’s girlfriend, Erica, shows up. It is somewhat of a reunion between Erica and the heiress, who is one of the main suspects.
This mystery is very well-written and a good story that includes both a mystery and a travelogue. Any reader who is a traveler will look the town up and head on to Italy on vacation. As the book is called “A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery” it is expected that we will see more of Rick.
Quill says: This is a definite keeper and I look forward to meeting Rick again as he solves another mystery.