Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Return to Umbria (Rick Montoya Italian Mystery) by David P. Wagner

Rick Montoya is back in his fourth Italian Mystery. Half Italian and half pure New Mexican (his American wild west idea of justice at the end of the book could be considered proof of that), Rick makes a living as an interpreter and translator in Italy (if only!), when he's not helping out his friends and relatives who work in law enforcement. His cowboy boots mark him as American even if he speaks Italian like a native.

The series is clearly aimed at armchair travelers, and I enjoyed the virtual visit to beautiful Italy in Return to Umbria. The author includes lots of cultural information and many delicious Italian meals while the protagonist works to solve a mystery or two.

Orvieto and her gorgeous cathedral

I like Rick more in this book than in the previous one I read, mainly because he is less a superman or action hero in this book. He's fallible and not quite the ladies man he appeared to be in the other book. Perhaps as a female reader that is more appealing? I'll leave that up to the men to decide.

There was one part of the book that had me shaking my head: the main premise. The reason Rick is in Orvieto in Umbria seems very implausible to me. His family wants him to convince a male cousin to stop having an affair with a mature married woman.

Really? In Italy?

From my experience in Italy, the male cousin would more likely have been congratulated on his luck at capturing a lucrative bit of tussle between the sheets. It seemed very Breakfast at Tiffany, to be honest, and none of Rick's business. But I suppose for the story's sake there had to be a reason for his leaving Rome and going to beautiful Orvieto.

Book One in the Series

The writing is smooth, generally, but the dialogue feels a bit stilted mainly because the author shows a reluctance to use contractions. Rick's entry into the police case feels natural, however, since he has worked with the policeman in this book in an earlier story, and he works regularly with the police as an interpreter.

There is no explicit sex and no swearing in the book, but there is some violence. Fans of the series should enjoy this one. New readers might want to start with the series at the beginning, but it's not really necessary.

The books in the Rick Montoya Italian Mystery Series:
  1. Cold Tuscan Stone
  2. Death in the Dolomites
  3. Murder Most Unfortunate (reviewed on this site)
  4. Return to Umbria

Book Two in the Series

From the book's description (spoilers!):
Orvieto—its very name brings to mind priceless art, colorful ceramics, and straw-colored wine. And the most famous cathedral fa├žade in Italy, a structure of gothic spires, arches, statues, and mosaics. But as Rick Montoya discovers, this jewel of Umbria can have an ugly side as well.

When Rick Montoya moved to his mother’s Italy from his father’s Santa Fe, New Mexico, to work as a freelance translator using his dual heritage, he didn’t expect to be helping the Italian police. His maternal uncle, a high-level commissioner in Rome, however, sees no reason not to use the resources at hand.

Rick’s fourth investigation should not have involved crime. It begins when Rick is asked by his uncle to go to Orvieto to talk some sense into his cousin Fabrizio, whose fling with an older married woman is embarrassing the family. Rick agrees to give it a try, and plans a short but romantic weekend in Orvieto with Betta Innocenti, the woman he met in Bassano. What could go wrong?

Less than a day after their arrival, his language skills draw him into the brutal murder of an American visitor. He finds that he knows the policeman in charge, but Inspector LoGuercio has changed since the time they met in Volterra. The murdered woman had studied art in Italy decades earlier—why has she returned now? And why was she dumped at night on a dusty road?

Through her traveling companions, her devastated daughter and best friend, as well as a growing list of those who knew her from her student days, they realize she had come to Orvieto to face the past. And then a second murder occurs in a public park, with Montoya so close that he wonders if he could have been the intended target. Is all this connected to Fabrizio and his affair, or to the American’s death?

More violence erupts, some of it definitely directed at Rick himself. Strong suspects, tantalizing secrets, concealed motives, and risky behaviors tie to a fascinating landscape and layers of Orvieto’s past.

Book Three in the Series
(reviewed on this site)

Here is a link to the book at Amazon.com:

Please visit the author's website where he blogs and provides information on the locations in the books and their regional dishes.  Visit the Poison Pen Press page for the Rick Montoya series.

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