Antiques dealer Lara McClintoch (The African Quest, 2001, etc.) finds herself in a B-movie scenario when her escort to an appointment in Rome with reclusive billionaire Crawford Lake blindfolds her. Melodrama continues to attend her like Hitchcock on a bad day once Lake hires her to buy an ancient Etruscan statue from French collector Robert Goddard. She jumps at the chance, not wondering unduly why she, a relative unknown, has been chosen. In France, she discovers that Goddard is reluctant to part with the statue, even though she thinks it’s a fake. But he takes a shine to Lara and shows her his custom-built subterranean tomb, done in the authentic Etruscan style. When Lara returns for more negotiations, she finds Goddard’s dead body in the tomb. Did he fall while maneuvering out of his wheelchair, did he succumb to despair, or was he pushed? Then Lara discovers a priceless authentic Etruscan hydria—a water jug stolen from a museum—in the trunk of her car. She smuggles it back to Italy to see whether Lake can return it to the proper authorities. Once in Tuscany, ancient seat of the Etruscan state, the hydria gets passed from villain to victim, leaving corpses in its wake.
In a conspiracy that makes the mythological Hydra look like a reasonable creature, Lara suffers from the conventional dimness of the dupe. And who can blame her? No one but a mystery novelist could possibly have imagined this farrago of ridiculously complicated schemes.