Orvieto is the latest stop for translator Rick Montoya (Murder Most Unfortunate, 2015, etc.), who stumbles across corpses in every hidden corner of Italy
There’s nothing illegal in the behavior Rick’s uncle, Commissario Piero Fontana of the Rome police, sends his nephew to investigate, unless you think it’s criminally stupid for Rick’s cousin Fabrizio to partly set up housekeeping with an older married woman in the ancient walled city a short drive from Rome. Tullia Aragona pays for Fabrizio’s Orvieto apartment, where she visits him often but goes home to her shady husband, Vincenzo. Rick’s mission is to persuade young Fabrizio to return to Rome. Hoping to see the sights, he invites his current girlfriend, Betta Innocenti, along but is soon pressed into service by the police. Detective Paolo LoGuercio, temporarily in charge of the small-town Orvieto force, is confronted with the murder of an American woman, Rhonda Van Fleet. Unused to serious crime, LoGuercio not only needs Rick to translate as he interviews Rhonda’s traveling companions, her adult daughter, Gina, and her longtime friend Francine, but relies increasingly on Rick’s instincts as an amateur sleuth. Rhonda came to Orvieto, where she’d learned ceramics as a student, to reconnect with her past. But which of those connections proved fatal? As Mayor Bernardo Boscoli and tourism booster Livio Morgante urge LoGuercio to close the case quickly, Rick leaves Betta to explore Orvieto’s medieval streets on her own while he tries to unmask a killer.
Once again, Wagner’s setting battles his plot for the reader’s attention, leaving detection in Orvieto’s soft volcanic dust.