Review: A Funeral in Mantova (Rick Montoya Italian Mystery #5) by David P. Wagner

Author: David P. Wagner
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: March 6th 2018
Source: ebook (given by Netgalley)


The body rolled off the planks and slipped into the water with barely a splash, quickly embraced by the steady current flowing toward the city of Mantova. It comes to rest against rocks overlooked by the grim ramparts of Castello di San Giorgio as the river Mincio flows on towards the Po and the Adriatic Sea.
Lombardy was once hotly disputed by the cities of Venice and Milan. Today it is famed for its food rather than war. But the murder of the elderly fisherman, for so it proves to be, reveals battles still rage within the region's controlled agribiz, the manufacture of cheese and cured meats by generations of local families, as well as over the best use for a parcel of land owned by the victim, Roberto Rondini, and now passing to his heirs.
Rick Montoya, an American from New Mexico self-employed as a translator in Italy, soon receives a call from the States. The US Embassy in Rome has recommended his services to wealthy Angelo Rondini, cousin to Roberto. Angelo, age seventy-eight and born in nearby Voglia, has been invited to the funeral by Roberto's daughter, Livia Guarino. Out of respect, Angelo has agreed to connect with the Italian family he hasn't seen since he was a very young boy.
Rick hires on as interpreter. And soon receives another assignment - a local cop, Inspector Crespi, linked to Rick's uncle, Commissario Piero Fontana of the Roman Questura, leads the murder investigation and asks Rick to observe and report. Rick agrees, if Angelo accepts his working undercover. And so Rick once again puts his linguistic skills to use for the local law in solving a crime.
Despite the joys and distractions of the city and its watery setting, its glorious art and architecture, and the temptations of the local cuisine and cheese culture, the investigation must probe the life of Roberto and the history of the Rondinis as well as the rivalries of the locals. Yet with all this on display, the story is stolen by two women: Angelo's American executive assistant, and Livia, the Rondini clan's new matriarch. 

*The publisher provided this book in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley.*
Roberto Rondini dies in Mantova, his heir and daughter, Livia, invites his faraway Italian-American cousin Angelo Rondini to come to his funeral. Rondini ends up accepting the invite and goes to Italy, the country where he was born but does not remember.
Rick Montoya is an American with Italian roots who works as a translator for written work but also as an interpreter to Americans and soon receives a call from the wealthy Mr Angelo Rondini's office, hiring him, for his stay in Italy. Rick's job is to allow Mr Rondini to communicate with his relatives with ease since he does not speak any Italian and they do not speak much, or even any, English.
In the midst of all of this, the mystery of Roberto Rondini's death ends up worrying and bothering both Angelo and Rick, who start trying to find out more about it. While helping the local Questura, they start unveiling the Rondini family past, which was not always great. The more they learn about the circumstances of Angelo's death the more they are convinced that is was, indeed, a murder.
A mystery book is not something that I am used to reading. Agatha Christie and Dan Brown are about half of the experience I have with crime novels and, because of that, this was a nice change of pace.
This book accomplished one of the things that I believe are one of the most important in this genre: it was not predictable. I did not see the end coming, which is always nice. I hate when I solve a mystery novel too fast and this one allowed me to delve into the unknown for almost its entirety.
The characters were believable enough, even though I believe that there were a lot of Italian clichés in action through the book which were unnecessary. I liked Rick's character but there was something lacking, I blame that on the fact that I read this book as a standalone, even though there are five books in this series before this one. (I informed myself first, it is ok to read it as a standalone novel.)
Besides some lacks here and there, this is an interesting book and I am open to reading more of the kind in a near future. If you like crime novels, food and Italy I believe you will enjoy this book.

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