A professor’s dream assignment turns up some disturbing details.
Lizzie Manning (Paradise Walk, 2011, etc.) has been assigned to arrange the centennial exhibition for St. Patrick’s College. The college’s founder was a wealthy Boston Irishman whose daughter, Maggie Kelliher, married Lorenzo Gonzaga, an Italian prince whose family has amassed a fantastic collection of everything from world-class art to stuffed alligators, much of it dating back to the Renaissance. When the family offers St. Patrick’s whatever items they want from the family home in Bologna, Lizzie researches the college’s collection of family papers and travels to Italy to make her choices. The only inhabitant of the house is the last of Maggie’s children, the mentally unstable Patrizio, who segues from welcoming Lizzie to attacking her. His nephew Cosimo, who’s financing the exhibit, has Patrick removed to a hospital, giving Lizzie the run of the house. With the help of the conservator Cosimo has hired to preserve, pack and ship the pieces, Lizzie soon makes difficult choices among the thousands of available items. But unexpected complications await her. While she’s working, Lizzie reads Maggie’s letters to her brother in Boston, which reveal much about the family’s struggles during World War II, when the Nazis raped and murdered Maggie’s daughter, a resistance fighter. When one of Lizzie’s first choices, a mummy case sans mummy, is mistakenly sent along with the mummy included, it turns out to contain the body of a young woman shot in the head and mummified in modern times. Lizzie must solve this murder before all her hard work is ruined.
History buffs fascinated by the wealth of historical information Lizzie unearths will forgive the long wait for the mystery to appear.