The Fairchilds celebrate their 25th anniversary in a Tuscany cooking school complete with wine, olives, secretive companions and homicide.
Caterer Faith Fairchild and her pastor husband, Tom, have a few days in Rome before heading for the outskirts of Florence for the inaugural week of her former assistant Francesca’s Cucina Rossi cooking program. They’re befriended by Freddy Ives, who reveals few personal details but knows the best restaurants, cafes and tourist vistas in town. To the Fairchilds’ horror, he’s stabbed to death in a Roman piazza, grasping for his pen and saying, “They’re going to ki....” The police seem uninterested, and the Fairchilds, who barely caught a glimpse of the attacker, head for the Tuscany hills, where Francesca’s cooking students are gathered. There are a bickering couple, possibly contemplating divorce; a goth girl with facial piercings; a British couple who find fault with everything; a pair of lovebirds; some Southern ladies; and Francesca’s neighbor Luke, who owns a grand palazzo and the surrounding vineyards. The group has barely warmed up the oven when Francesca’s assistant quits, decapitated snakes are left in all the bathtubs, Faith is locked in an Etruscan tomb, Tom is kidnapped, Freddy’s notebook is discovered in the palazzo, and his pen turns up too, startling one and all. It will take a call to Faith’s sister back in the States to get the British Embassy involved and separate an assassination plot from the shenanigans of a jealous local, but not to worry: The cooking school is a major success, and the participants leave with a nice set of recipes.
Tuscany food markets, extra virgin olive oil and historic sites are all rendered with Page’s typical gusto and charm (The Body in the Boudoir, 2012, etc.), but, again typically, the plot collapses since logic and reason remain missing ingredients.