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The Gideon Oliver Mystery Series
JACKET NOTES: It was supposed to be a much-needed Italian holiday from grueling academia for Gideon. True, his wife Julie is there to help their friend Phil Boyajian run a guided bicycle-and-kayak tour of the Italian Lake District, but Gideon himself is looking forward to a few days' rest and recreation. So when Phil invites the couple to his wealthy family's idyllic island estate in Lake Maggiore, the Olivers accept with enthusiasm. But the luxurious surroundings, breathtaking views, and sumptuous food come at a steep price.
Aaron Elkins has set his eleventh Gideon Oliver mystery in the Piedmont region of Italy. The action takes place in the charming town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore, which is a refreshing pleasure for fans of Italian mysteries and a stark departure from the frequently used locations of Venice, Florence, or Rome. The story begins with a gripping 1960s prologue that introduces us to Domenico de Grazias aristocratic family and sets the stage for the present day story that involves the next two generations of his family. When the present day story begins, Domenico has been dead for a decade and his son, Vincenzo, has inherited the responsibility of maintaining the estate and the good family name. When Vincenzos rather obnoxious son, Achille, gets kidnapped, the case gets assigned to the Carabinieris Colonel Tullio Caravalle.
Up to this point in the story it is very easy for the reader to forget that this is the next mystery in the Gideon Oliver series. One asks oneself just how could that famous American forensic anthropologist Skeleton Detective possibly get involved in this case. Well, Gideon and his wife Julie are assisting their friend Phil, from Seattle, put on a tour of the Italian lake country. Much to their surprise Phil is really Filiberto Ungaretti and a close relative of the de Grazia family in Stresa. So when, shortly after their arrival, a skeleton is found, Gideon is asked to help identify the remains and therefore gets deeply involved in this case and the kidnapping along with the very competent Colonel Caravalle. Together by combining their talents, Gideon and Caravalle proceed to unravel these two interesting and complex cases. Over the course of the story, we get introduced to all of the members of the extended de Grazia family thus furnishing a long list of suspects.
I commend Elkins for his research on this one. I loved his Italian references, particularly the occasional phrases and the food descriptions. His Lake Maggiore setting makes one want to go visit and explore more. Except for protagonist Gideon and his wife Julie, all of the characters were Italian. As a regular visitor to Italy, I found these characters credible and loved all of the petty family infighting. In my opinion, this the best mystery novel Aaron Elkins has written. I would really like him to do more novels set in Italy.
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