Interpreter Rick Montoya (Death in the Dolomites, 2014, etc.) earns an unexpected vacation when an art conference ends in murder.
By most accounts, the seminar in Bassano del Grappa was a rousing success, especially for Stefano Porcari, whose bank had sponsored the event, and Paolo Tibaldi, whose museum played host. Scholars from around the world met to discuss the works of Jacopo Bassano, the region’s most famous native son. Even wealthy businessmen like art dealer Franco Sarchetti enjoyed the discussion, especially when scholars debated the fate of Jacopo’s two missing paintings. But for professor Lorenzo Fortuna, the conference’s most argumentative participant, the afterglow is short-lived, since he’s killed soon after the seminar ends. Inspector Giuliano Occasio, who misses no opportunity to throw his weight around, forbids all the participants to leave Bassano until the case is solved. While British scholar George Oglesby, German Karl Muller, and American Jeffrey Randolph fume, Rick entertains himself by exploring Bassano’s Piazza Monte Vecchio, the Piazza Garibaldi, the Museo Civico—and by striking up a friendship with Betta Innocenti, daughter of another local art dealer. Rick’s Po Valley idyll draws to an unexpected close when he realizes Occasio is focusing on him as chief suspect. Occasio’s second-in-command, Detective Alfredo DiMaio, appeals to Rick’s Italian side, warning him to seek intervention from his uncle, a high-ranking member of Italy’s art police. But Rick’s American side wins out, and with Betta’s help, he springs the restless scholars by solving the case.
Like many overseas regionals, Wagner’s latest is part puzzle, part travelogue, likely to appeal most to readers who want a proxy visit to Italy.