Umbria’s urbane Commissario, Alessandro Cenni, investigates the murder of an expatriate American in Assisi.
All her life, Brooklyn teacher Rita Minelli was devoted to her namesake saint and an idealized vision of her mother’s hometown of Assisi, where mom fell in love with Rita’s GI father. When her mother dies and is returned to Italy for her funeral, Rita surprises family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic by deciding to stay on. It’s only a couple of years later that “the American lady” is found murdered in the local cemetery, on Good Friday no less. Handsome Commissario Cenni comes straight from a football game in Perugia to investigate. The murder scene has been staged with suspicious neatness, with Rita’s panties pulled down in a false suggestion of rape. The suspects run from the Croatian flower lady Sophie Orlic, who found Rita’s body and appropriated her purse, allegedly for safekeeping, to Rita’s local relatives, the influential Casati family, all of them with lots of motives and little love for her. Count Umberto and his wife Amelia considered her a nuisance. Their daughter Artemisia, a rising star in the art world, denies any friendship in the face of contrary evidence. Cenni methodically questions everyone, ruminating at length after each interview. The discovery of Rita’s diary provides clues and surprises.
The first in a proposed series, Brophy’s leisurely debut has an old-fashioned feel and charm aplenty.