The dead can’t stay buried or the living alive in this tale of cops and tomb-raiders.
When self-educated archaeologist Arnold Landon’s testimony on the authenticity of a Celtic cauldron is debunked by scholar James MacLean, and the Crown’s smuggling case against antiques dealer Islwyn Evans evaporates, his supervisor at the Morpeth Department of Museums and Antiquities, Karen Stannard, sends him off to Italy for retraining. The Italian Minister of Culture has asked the Brits to help establish an international task force to identify art and foil smugglers. Landon’s tutor, zaftig Carmella Cacciatore, takes him out to an Etruscan site, where they discover the body of Cosimo, a local capo turned informant. Who slit his throat? What’s his connection with the missing calyx krater, a priceless Greek vase and the nefarious Renzo organization, which is eliminating its art-smuggling rivals? Landon’s more interested in a book that proves MacLean lied in court, but when he returns to England, no one else cares. DCI O’Connor is preoccupied with his own slit throats: those of Hamilton, managing director of NSM Shipping, and MacLean. Even dicier, O’Connor’s soon plunged into a heady affair with the trophy wife of a major art collector. Then a paid assassin goes after Evans, and O’Connor and Landon’s interests suddenly coincide.
Lewis (Dead Secret, 2001, etc.) provides a nice courtroom sequence and background on the tombaroli, but the plot connections are forced and the characters wispy.