A first novel (for publisher as well as author) begins with a promising scenario: In the 1880's, a fictional Italian boy helps the real Luigi Tarisio find a lost Stradivarius. When the itinerant Luigi (whose vocation is discovering these missing treasures) arrives in the village, he's quickly befriended by young Antonio--who introduces Luigi to various neighbors and helps him figure out who might have the instrument, the marvelous tone of which still lingers in a local tale. Unfortunately, the textbook style here combines with stock characters who are prone to remarks like, ""I'm a poor widow...I have nothing but a sad heart."" There are few details to lend a sense of place or of village life: Antonio's father complains about his daydreaming on page one, but we never discover what he might have been doing instead. ""Midday isn't the time to visit someone""--but why not? The language is clichÃ‰d and sometimes careless: what color is ""tarnished gold""? This harmless mystery does introduce some historical facts; but it's oversimplistic, and Hooper fails to realize its unusual setting.