Cold Tuscan Stone
Review: Rick Montoya is delighted when a former classmate, Beppo Rinaldi, now a government official with the Italian Ministry of Culture, invites him to lunch. But Rick is surprised when the conversation turns to the illegal trade of antiquities, specifically pieces of Etruscan artwork, and that Beppo wants his help in identifying those involved, in Cold Tuscan Stone, the first mystery in this series by David P. Wagner.
Though schooled in Italy, Rick had been a long-time resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico before moving to Rome as a professional interpreter and translator. Because Rick is new to the country, Beppo believes that no one would doubt his cover story of him merely scouting for a friend in the US interested in acquiring Etruscan pieces for clients of their gallery. Rick is intrigued by the prospect of participating, not only in what he believes to be the thrill of the chase but also to gain a little bit of respect from his only relative living in Italy, his Uncle Piero, a police officer.
The action gets started early in Cold Tuscan Stone with a man last seen with Rick is being thrown off a bridge, which brings in the Volterra police. They had been advised that Rick would be working undercover in their town, an operation they didn't approve of especially since it involved an outsider (i.e. an American), but getting involved in a murder investigation is clearly more than they bargained for. The abrupt changes in point of view take a little getting used to here, and while it is tricky going at first, the narrative does settle down after a while. What helps, almost surprisingly so, is how beautifully the countryside is drawn as a backdrop and how important food and wine and, yes, artwork and history are to almost every important scene or conversation. Though there are relatively few suspects, there are a lot of characters and it helps when they take a break to dine or discuss art, giving readers a chance to get acquainted with them. The murder mystery itself is nicely crafted, if also a little thinly plotted, but given how well structured the environment in which Rick's investigation plays out it hardly matters. A fine effort to start this series.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided an ARC of Cold Tuscan Stone for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Cold Tuscan Stone: Volterra, Tuscany, Italy
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Cold Tuscan Stone by David P. Wagner — A Rick Montoya Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: September 2013
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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