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The Italian Divide by Allan Topol

The Italian Divide” is Allan Topol’s twelfth international thriller.  It is part of his “A Craig Page Thriller” series.

Topol never minces words.  Readers know immediately that the world is once again in deep trouble because of bad actors on the political and economic scene.  The characters are eerily believable.  In this case, an Italian banker is murdered and another Italian banker is forced to sell his share of his bank in exchange for a financial bailout and support for his political ambition by a mysterious Chinese mogul who turns out to be China’s finance minister.  In the thick of it trying to foil the plot to destroy the Italian economy and divide the country is Craig Page, a former CIA director who has gone into retirement in the guise of an Italian race car driver, Enrico Marino.

Topol spins such a captivating tale that it is hard to put “The Italian Divide” down before the nail-biter of an ending.

Two thumbs up!

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a supplied proof copy.)

 

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Cold Tuscan Stone by David P Wagner

Cold Tuscan Stone” is the first novel in the “Rick Montoya Italian Mystery” series.  Wagner is a retired foreign service officer who is now living in New Mexico.  He fittingly designed this mystery series around subjects the author knows well, and that knowledge pays off through the details Wagner is able to provide in describing the setting in a small Tuscan city and the Etruscan artifacts that are tucked away in museums and secret burial caves around the area.

The protagonist, Rick Montoya, has just moved to Rome from his native New Mexico to be a translator.  Montoya spent part of his youth in Rome while his father was in foreign service there.  When he moves to Rome he is quickly recruited by a high school friend, Beppo Rinaldi, who is the head of the Italian Art Squad, a crack force of investigators of art theft and smuggling around the country.  He asks Rick to pose as the agent of a Santa Fe art gallery interested in smuggling authentic Etruscan artifacts from around the Tuscan city of Volterra.  Beppo gives Rick a list of several suspicious art dealers in and around Volterra.  Rick is to get to know these individuals, assess their potential for being art smugglers, and propose a possible illegal transaction to the ones who appear most suspicious.  Rick’s Roman girlfriend, Erica, is an art expert and she knows one of these dealers, as well as the curator of Volterra’s Etruscan museum.

It takes Rick awhile to get sufficiently on the inside of things in the community.  Meanwhile, he is the last one to see one of these art dealers alive.  The man mysteriously falls or is thrown from a high wall and Rick is questioned about the possibility of a murder by the same local police who are supposed to be protecting and assisting him in the art sting.  It takes a long time for Rick to gain the trust of the police Commissario Conti.  The police doggedly tail Montoya until the mystery is seemingly resolved.

The reader will soak up the atmosphere of Tuscany and its beautiful towns and landscape as experienced through this compelling new character, Rick Montoya.  I personally love Italy as a setting for a mystery, and I love art mysteries, so what’s not to like about “Cold Tuscan Stone?”

Read it.  You’ll like it.  I look forward to many more Rick Montoya mystery adventures set in similarly atmospheric places.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

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