The Case of the Missing Botticelli
by Marilyn Baron
A Massimo Domingo Mystery - Book 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Release Date: January 24, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
In this cozy mystery, American art history major Hadley Evans joins an art detective agency in Florence, Italy, working for Massimo Domingo, once a major player, now the Inspector Clouseau of the art world.
Determined to save the flailing agency and prove her worth, Hadley and her sexy carabiniere boyfriend, Luca Ferrari, take on a mysterious client behind her boss's back. While hot on the trail of a missing masterpiece, they discover a hidden cache of stolen Nazi art in a Venetian villa and encounter a dangerous enemy with a link to an evil past.
It's been almost five years since my last visit to Italy, the country of my soul. Once I discovered that Marilyn Baron had set her new book there, it went straight to my must-read list. Situated primarily in Florence and Venice, with side trips to Lake Como and Milan, reading this story was like visiting my favorite places from my sofa. It's clear that Baron is both knowledgeable about and holds deep affection for Italy. The scenic, architectural, and cultural richness of the country shines through on every page.
Something else that shines through is this author's appreciation for art, around which the mysteries in the book are centered, in particular, art with ties to WWII, Germany, and the Holocaust. I was fascinated by the blending of fiction with the obviously well-researched facts surrounding treasured paintings by European masters that were confiscated (stolen) from Jewish families in the 1930s and 1940s, some of which have been recovered and others that are missing still, as well as the ongoing struggle of surviving family members to reclaim their rightful property. I want to know more.
There is a romantic thread that weaves through the story as well, featuring Hadley, the (American) main protagonist and Luca, an Italian carabiniere (police officer). It's entertaining and does continue to evolve throughout the story with Luca assisting Hadley in her art detective role. This is the first book of a new series so, if Hadley continues to have a leading role in future books, I'm hopeful we'll see her romantic relationship progress as well. There are already plenty of opportunities for both conflict and humor in cultural expectations as well as those of Hadley's and Luca's American and Italian families. Italian mamas and Southern Belles (Hadley's mother) do tend to have opinions and aren't hesitant to voice them.
If you enjoy cozy mysteries, "traveling" from the comfort of home, engaging characters and fascinating historical facts, all centered within the high-stakes world of stolen art, give this book a try. I enjoyed it and will be looking forward to the next Massimo Domingo mystery.