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"It was the unwavering custom of Pietro Cubbiddu, patriarch of Tuscany's Villa Antica wine empire, to take a solitary month-long sabbatical at the end of the early grape harvest, leaving the winery in the trusted hands of his three sons. His wife, Nola, would drive him to an isolated mountain cabin in the Apennines and return for him a month later, bringing him back to his family and business.
So it went for almost a decade--until the year came when neither of them returned. Months later, a hiker in the Apennines stumbles on their skeletal remains. The carabinieri investigate and release their findings: they are dealing with a murder-suicide. The evidence makes it clear that Pietro Cubbiddu shot and killed his wife and then himself. The likely motive: his discovery that Nola had been having an affair.
Not long afterwards, Gideon Oliver and his wife, Julie, are in Tuscany visiting their friends, the Cubbiddu offspring. The renowned Skeleton Detective is asked to reexamine the bones. When he does, he reluctantly concludes that the carabinieri, competent though they may be, have gotten almost everything wrong. Whatever it was that happened in the mountains, a murder-suicide it was not.
Soon Gideon finds himself in a morass of family antipathies, conflicts, and mistrust, to say nothing of the local carabinieri's resentment. And when yet another Cubbiddu relation meets an unlikely end, it becomes bone-chillingly clear that the killer is far from finished...
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-10-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Edgar-winner Elkins’s cleverly plotted 18th Gideon Oliver mystery (after 2009’s Skull Duggery) takes the man “known throughout the world of forensic science as the Skeleton Detective” to Tuscany, where he looks into the apparent murder-suicide of Pietro Cubbiddu, the strong-willed patriarch of the famous Cubbiddu wine-making family, and Pietro’s wife, Nola. After examining the remains, Gideon concludes that it’s an unusual double homicide instead. The family and its confidantes had motive and opportunity for killing the couple—but why push the bodies off a cliff, then shoot them after they’re already dead? The later murder of an estranged half-brother of the three grown Cubbiddu sons creates both clues and confusion. A convincing resolution more than offsets the painstaking discussions of the manner of death that initially slow the pace. Evocations of Tuscany and a lively cast of supporting characters, notably feisty police lieutenant Rocco Gardella, balance the cerebral investigation with charm. Agent: Lisa Erback Vance, Aaron M. Priest Literary. (Dec.)