Death in the Dolomites
(Rick Montoya Italian Mystery #2)
by David P. Wagner

Rick Montoya takes a break from his translation business in Rome to join his college buddy Flavio in the Italian Alps.  Heavy snow has brought enthusiastic skiers to the picturesque ski town of Campiglio, where the food tastes even better after a day on the slopes.  But Rick’s holiday is interrupted when a body is found in the deep snow under a ski lift.  With a push from his uncle, an Italian policeman in Rome, Rick is drawn into the investigation.  The victim is an American banker, but the suspects are all Italian.  Well, all except the dead man’s beautiful sister, now the sole heir to the family fortune.

As Rick and an eccentric local policeman poke around Campiglio, small town politics and personal rivalries quickly widen the list of suspects.  There’s the bombastic mayor and his ex-wife, a cut-throat real estate investor, the victim’s lanky landlord, a hotel owner, and even the gray-haired lady who runs the best bakery in the valley.  But whoever is behind the murder, they don’t seem pleased with Rick’s involvement in the investigation, if two suspicious brushes with danger are any indication.

Rick’s vacation is proving to be more demanding than his normal work routine in Rome.  Between the investigation and fending off the lovely heiress, he hardly finds any time to ski with Flavio.  But the murderer must be found, or Rick himself could become another victim.

Richard comments
I thought better to read a second book in the Wagner Montoya series before criticizing his books too much.

Criticizing is much easier than writing a book. Reading Wagner’s stories is just a little less painful than it must have been writing them. Try as he might to capture the flavour of Italy, the taste of its bounty and the richness of its culture and history, Wagner fails in the effort. The story drags with superfluous descriptions. The characters lack attractive colour, developed personalities. His deeper descriptions are unable to give the story development necessary depth. How often is it important to talk about the cowboy boots worn by chief protagonist, Rick Montoya. How often does the reader need to be reminded of the heavy snowfall in the Dolomites. Not to mention that the plot drags on forever, its many convolutions confusing more than clarifying.

Wagner’s intentions are honourable, to pay homage to the beauty and magnificence of Italy and her many faces. He tried to extol the glory and fame of Italy but misses the mark. He may be trying to emulate Donna Leon or benefit from the success of her Brunetti series, but he has a long way to go to get there.

Death in the Dolomites should have died there as well.

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