Book Review: Crime of the Ancient Marinara

By Stephanie Cole

American Nell Valenti is hired to develop a world-class cooking school requiring a move to Cortona, Italy. She is now living and working in a villa owned by renowned Chef Claudio Orlandini. His Cornell-educated son, Pete, as well as a cast of female family members also reside at the villa.

Nell has her work cut out for her. The Orlandini family is quirky and set in their ways. Trying to organize them is like herding turtles, one or more of them frequently wander off to do his or her own thing creating chaos instead of the organization Nell is striving to achieve.

The first class of students in the cooking school is a group of Americans that have arrived excited to learn the recipe for Chef Orlandini’s famous marinara. It is to be the highlight of the final day. Unfortunately, an unruly chef and the murder of one of the Americans waylays any plans that Nell made.

Unsatisfied with the suspect the police have in custody, Nell begins her own investigation with a man she thinks is a private detective – but is he really? Between the lies, secrets and a language barrier Nell is ready to throw in the towel – but can she ever forgive herself if someone gets away with murder?

Quirky characters fill the pages of this mystery. The chef is over the top Italian and his son is a sexy olive pressing hunk. The Orlandini women range from nuns to a talented sous chef. The Americans add an interesting mix along with the elements of surprise. Almost all of the book is set at the villa. I would have liked more adventures away from the villa, to give me more of the taste of Italy. Other than the problems in communication between characters speaking Italian and others speaking English, the setting could have been anywhere. I wanted descriptions of the town, really bringing the reader into the beautiful country of Italy.

Crime of the Ancient Marinara is the second book in this cozy mystery series. I did not read the first book and was a bit lost in the first few chapters as to the relationships between the characters. Overall, this was an enjoyable cozy mystery.

Author Stephanie Cole is also known as Shelley Costa. She has been nominated for both an Edgar and an Agatha Award as Shelley Costa. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Cole or Ms. Costa.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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