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THE DA VINCI COOK


By Joanne Pence

Avon, 2007 ($6.99)
ISBN: 978-0-06-075806-6

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Angie Amalfi is starting to have some success in the culinary world. She is thrilled when a world-renown chef asks her to ghost-write his cookbook, but her plans get derailed when her sister Caterina sends out an SOS. Cat, a realtor, had gone to check on a client, Marcello Piccoletti, and found a dead body and an open safe. She spots a man running from the home, presumes he’s the murderer, and gives chase. Why would she do that? She’s just been fired by her boss after Marcello accused her of stealing something from him, something she believes the fleeing felon took from the safe.

Even though Angie’s beau is a SFPD homicide detective, Cat doesn’t think she’ll get a fair shake. Wanting to prove she’s neither a thief nor a murderer, she stays on the real culprit’s trail, even when he goes to the airport and books a flight to Italy. Angie can’t let her big sis go through this alone, and since she has her passport handy, and plenty of credit on her Am Ex card, they are soon on the way to Rome. One must suspend some disbelief about the ease with which the lovely ladies buy a one-way ticket at the last minute, zoom through the security check (although Cat does have several metal implements she has to forfeit), and climb aboard without raising several red flags. Since the authorities are aware of the sisters’ get-away plans, one might also wonder why the German authorities don’t nab them when they change planes. The Italian police are on the alert, but the gals manage to outwit them. Pretty soon they are walking the streets of Rome, travel-rumpled, sleep-deprived, and wondering what to do next. The Amalfi sisters are used to the lush life of luxury hotels, designer clothes, and beauty salons, but they can’t use their plastic without leaving a trail. Poor them!

They have been told that Marcello is in Rome, attending to his restaurant, the Da Vinci. They make their way there, but Marcello is nowhere to be found. Angie convinces the staff, who are strangely unwelcoming, to let them stay in the upstairs apartment, in exchange for helping in the kitchen, while they wait for their paisano to return. Then the fun begins.

And there is a lot of fun, seeing Rome’s ancient landmarks through the eyes of the Amalfi sisters as they try to keep one step ahead of some very nasty people who want what they think the ladies have. It’s great to see Angie operate in another location, especially one as beautiful and interesting as this. The sisters get to know each other better, and they learn just how much their significant others really love them. Add in some fine recipes and you’ve got one very entertaining book.

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