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The setting is wish-you-were-there Tuscany.

The Family TombThe Family Tomb by Michael Gilbert

Robert Broke moves to Florence after the tragic death of his wife and unborn child, and stumbles into a conspiracy to fake and sell Etruscan artifacts about which he knows far too much for the comfort of the crooks. His friends rally round to find out the truth.

There’s your generic capsule summary of the plot, and it’s a good one, but oh, the characters are lovely, especially the expatriate English, as for example

Miss Plant was, in every sense of the word, the leading lady of the English colony in Florence. She had been there since around the beginning of the century. The accident that Italy had happened to be on the wrong side in the Second World War had not incommoded her at all. It had, in truth, served to emphasize her standing and increase her prestige. It was true that the Italian authorities, badgered beyond endurance by the Germans, and after exhausting every excuse for delay, had eventually agreed to take Miss Plant into custody as an enemy alien. The experiment had not been a success.

to the extreme discomfort and eventual post-war social ostracism of the Questore, the Italian official who had so briefly taken her into custody. Then there is the English counsel, Sir Gerald Weighhill, pronounced “Whale”in case there is any doubt after the following passage:

Sir Gerald was the finest specimen of all Weighhills to date. He turned the scale, in his underpants, at two hundred fifty pounds, moved with the majesty of an aircraft carrier, and needed, unkind persons asserted, almost as much seaway to turn in. While he was still at an early age it had become clear that such talents must lead him into the Foreign Service.

And so it does. There are some marvelous Italian characters, like Tina and her mother Annunziata, Marco the Sindaco and Riccasole the attorney, and the bad guys are conscienceless enough to send a chill down the spine, and the setting is wish-you-were-there Tuscany. A fun read all around.

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