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by John Spencer Hill

Pub Date: March 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15133-0
Publisher: St. Martin's

 How do you keep up the suspense after you open your novel with the tableau of aging painter/restorer Nigel Harmsworth standing over the corpse of the blackmailer he's just killed? Lt. Columbo would just putter around for an hour asking dumb questions before bringing the culprit to book, but Inspector Carlo Arbati, the well-dressed poet of the Florentine Questura, is no Columbo, and Hill (The Last Castrato, 1995) is after bigger game anyway. So as Arbati begins to unwind in charming Lucca, where he's retreated to accept a poetry award and spend a couple of weeks catching up with his old friend Inspector Bonelli, the natives, most of whom have never heard of the late Jimmy Dearing, find themselves mysteriously unsettled by his death. Harmsworth's neighbor Cecilia Hathaway, whose love for him has never been returned, resolves to protect him from the fallout of Dearing's ugly death. Rifts open in the marriage of a visiting Philadelphia corporate attorney and his wife, and in the fragile domestic peace of a nearby German entomologist and his family. And an anxious call from Harmsworth brings his friend and landlord, Sir Richard Danvers, to Lucca as the prelude to a second violent death whose perpetrator isn't nearly so obvious--though the interrogative sequel to that second death isn't nearly as inventive as its maliciously extended prologue. Arbati, who's clearly intended as an Italian Adam Dalgliesh, isn't half the detective his model is; but Hill adds a few bright notes of his own to this updated village whodunit.