Veteran producer Michaels (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters) usually spices her contemporary gothics with dashes of occult and/or humor--but both commodities are in short supply this time around. Kathy Malone Morandini, an occasionally wry narrator-heroine, comes to the Villa Morandini in the Tuscan Hills to tell the Contessa M. that her grandson Bart (Kathy's actor-husband) has died in a recent car crash. True, Kathy, who's apparently guilt-ridden about this accidental death, gets a mostly chilly welcome at the villa, which has the usual complement of creepy servants. But she decides to stay for a while--largely because of her concern for dear little Pietro, the contessa's real grandson (Bart was just a nephew, it seems) and heir to the estate. Is football-loving Pietro really insane, as the contessa claims? Why else would he have fits of violence, requiring him to be locked up much of the time? Could there be skulduggery aimed at Pietro's inheritance? Kathy wants to help the boy; she also wants to see more of two new men friends (a handsome Italian shrink, a charmingly homely American researcher)--though she's still pursued by memories, even visions, of dead hubby Bart. And when Kathy starts making plans to take Pierre to his uncle and aunt in America, the villains-in-disguise start (at long last) to provide a little action and tension--leading up to formula escapes, chases, and showdowns. Some charm in the relationship between Kathy and cute Pietro, but under-par Michaels otherwise--with a creakily derivative plot, implausibilities galore, and an uncharacteristically bland supporting cast.