Return to Umbria (Rick Montoya)
by David P. Wagner
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Poisoned Pen Press Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B01LX1SAHH
Date: 01 November 2016
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Return to Umbria, by David P. Wagner, features Rick Montoya an English/Italian translator living in Rome. The son of an American diplomat and an Italian mother, it is sort of a natural occupation for him. Rick sees his Uncle Piero from his Italian side of the family often, and Uncle Piero, an Italian policeman, wants Rick to join the force. Rick resists, but sometimes serves an intermediary role by volunteering as a translator for crimes involving American citizens.
In Return to Umbria, Rick and his girlfriend travel to Orvieto (an ancient city in the Italian Region of Umbria) to visit with Rick's younger cousin. As they are riding the funicular (a mountainside cable railroad, in which ascending and descending cars are counterbalanced), they run into a group of three American women on vacation. Rick enjoys confusing people because both his Italian and English are perfect. People think he is one or the other and don't expect him to speak the other language, and he strikes up a small conversation with the tourists. Rick later meets with his cousin, but soon after he and his girlfriend read in that paper that one of the three American women was murdered the night before.
Rick meets with the local police and helps with the investigation as a translator for the other American women and for the victim's local the authorities back in the US. It is comforting for the women to have a fellow American to talk to, and the police are happy with Rick's ability to translate.
Several other small plots weave through the main one and add some dimension to the story. The reader gets a clue early in the novel about the identity of the murderer. Obviously the characters in the novel don't have the information, and it is lots of fun to continue reading as the police interview suspects and you have information that they don't.
I read and reviewed two of David P. Wagner's previous novels for gumshoe review: Cold Tuscan Stone and Death in the Dolomites. Wagner's novels are 50% mystery, 25% adventures of Rick Montoya, and 25% travel guides. I like the stories and Rick's adventures, but I love the trip to Italy that every novel brings to me. Wagner describes the sites and the history intelligently, and in a way that makes me want to travel there.
I am glad that looked up a photo of Orvieto, because now I understand the cliffs that surround the city (hence the funicular ride to get there). The builders of the ancient town chose the location on top of the cliff as a defensive position, because no group could attack the city without being seen. Although the author describes the location of the town, my mind's eye did not form a vision anywhere near the photo that I saw. I have been to Italy several times, but never to Umbria or Orvieto. One of my favorite wines also shows up in Return to Umbria--Orvieto Classico. The characters drink the wine throughout the novel, and naturally I had to go buy some too!
I loved Return to Umbria. I highly recommend it. I can't wait for Rick Montoya's next adventure.