An American translator finds danger and excitement helping a Roman friend crack a ring of art thieves.
Although he grew up in Rome, his mother’s home, Rick Montoya has always felt more American than Italian. So Beppo Rinaldi, one of the few full-blooded Romans to attend the American Overseas School of Rome, thinks Rick would be the perfect guy to help him find out who’s stealing Etruscan burial urns from the graves around Volterra and smuggling them to discreet private collectors around the world. Rick came to Rome about six months ago from New Mexico, his father’s home, to work as a translator. Beppo, who works for the art squad of the Italian Ministry of Culture, wants Rick to pose as a buyer for a New Mexico art gallery looking for handcrafted items to supplement its stock of Navajo artifacts. Rick is happy to spend some time in the ancient Tuscan hill town. He quickly makes contact with the three suspects on Beppo’s list: gallery owner Antonio Landi, importer-exporter Rino Polpetto and private art dealer Donatella Minotti, a college friend of Rick’s girlfriend, Erica. A quick tour of the local museum led by curator Arnolfo Zerbino gives Rick enough background in Etruscan art to make his cover story credible. But his investigation quickly hits a snag when local police discover that Rick was the last person to see Landi’s employee Orlando Canopo before the unfortunate workman plunged to his death. Commissario Carlo Conti of the Volterra Police has little patience for the art squad and even less for Rick, who may have signed up for a more difficult lesson in Italian police culture than he bargained for.
Like the Etruscan urns he seeks, Rick’s debut is well-proportioned and nicely crafted.