Cambridge University parapsychology lecturer Nathaniel Gye comes to the aid of a corpse.
The voice of security guard Bob Gomer wafts over a séance table, imploring his MS-stricken wife Pearl to contact Dr. Gye (Tripletree, 2003) and prove that he didn’t commit suicide and that he wasn’t guilty of stealing Antonello da Messina’s Renaissance masterpiece Portrait of a Doge while transporting it in a locked van from Heathrow to Bath’s Millenium Gallery. Through the medium Mrs. George, Gomer also warns that Gye’s wife Katherine, editor of Panache, should stay away from Italy. Of course she goes anyway, and is promptly robbed, then abducted by menacing folks who want her husband to stop dabbling in their affairs. Gye, who has hotfooted it to Florence to find her and continue dabbling into the art theft, is stymied when a master forger dies before they can talk, prompting the release of Katherine, who is now even more determined than him to see things through. The investigation proceeds from Venice to Rome to Bath—with stops along the way to discuss matters with a retired barrister, an illusionist, several unscrupulous Italians, Gomer’s brother-in-law, the CID inspector who originally thought Gomer a suicide, and the medium’s car-crazy son Kevin—before a final séance explains all.
Okay as a locked-van puzzle, but weighted down with Gye’s journal entries and outré escapes from gangster widows, international conspiracies, and ectoplasmic manifestations.