I have finished the 141st book for the book challenge. It was The Body In The Piazza: A Faith Fairchild Mystery by Katherine Hall Page.
Faith and Tom Fairchild are in Italy on a anniversary holiday. They are in Rome first and then plan to go to Tuscany to the cooking school operated by their friends for a week. While in Rome, they become fast friends with journalist Freddy Ives, an Englishman. He takes them on a tour of the sites of Rome and they go out to dinner with him. They are having a great time with Freddy and have developed a great friendship.
Freddy plans to leave one morning. Tom and Faith do some site-seeing and that evening are in the nearby piazza when there is a scuffle and they see Freddy being stabbed with a knife by a man. Tom and Faith rush over to Freddy. Tom is given Freddy’s fountain pen by him and Freddy says, “You’ve got to stop them before they ki…” Then he dies. Tom has gotten a good look at the man who killed Freddy so he spends some time with the police.
Faith looks for Freddy’s notebook around the piazza and on Freddy’s body. She doesn’t find it. So she manages to get into his belongings and into his hotel room and looks for it there but she doesn’t find it in either of those two places.
Faith and Tom take the train to Tuscany to Cucina Del Rossi, the cooking school of Francesca and Gianni Rossi, their friends. There are a number of other people signed up for the week. Olivia, an Australian girl, is there, as are the Nashes, an English couple, who have their own car. Skye and Jack are a California couple and Terry and Len Russo are a squabbling couple from New Jersey. There are also a woman and her aunt from Louisiana.
Things are frantic at the school as the helper as just disappeared with all his belongings. Francesca’s sister-in-law is helping but she speaks no English. Then a culinary student from Rome named Mario appears to take the helper’s place. He is hired and the school can go on as planned. The students start to prepare the meals. Jean-Luc from the nearby farm is also involved.
As they are preparing a dessert, they notice that the cream is spoiled. Francesca can’t understand it as she just bought it. Then the next morning, Olivia find a dead decapitated snake in her bathroom. Francesca wakes Faith and they quietly go to all the guest rooms where they find the same thing–decapitated snakes. Someone is trying to destroy the cooking school. On a later occasion, Faith comes upon Mario putting salt in the flour. He has been sabotaging things at the school for another cooking school. He will not do it any longer now that he has been caught.
In Florence, Tom sees the man who killed Freddy talking to Olivia. He is sure it is the same man. Faith investigates some of the guest rooms at the cooking school. She finds a gun in Olivia’s room. Who is she really? Faith overhears the Nashes speaking in a foreign language. They tell her it is a pet language. Then everyone goes to Jean-Luc’s farm for lunch and a tour of his restored farm house. While there, Faith spots Freddy’s notebook. Later, she takes a bike and goes back to the farmhouse and looks for the notebook. She finds that it is blank. All the pages have been ripped out.
The guests are writing recipes. One of them asks to borrow a pen. Tom offers the use of Freddy’s pen but tells them to be careful. She drops it and it breaks apart and there is a rolled up piece of paper inside. It says Theatro Verdi Fri. 13 F.V. Faith and Tom know it means something important. They decide to contact the British consulate about the note and also to buy a ticket for performances at the Theatro Verdi in Florence for Friday the 13th. Something will happen then.
Faith wakes up and Tom is missing. She hopes he has gone to Siena but Jack has seen him running toward Jean- Luc’s farm. Faith makes up a story about how he has gone to Siena to say over night. She receives a call from the kidnappers about Tom. She asks to talk to Tom. He tells her he would really like a Bible and gives her a Bible verse. She asks her sister what the Bible verse is and it is the verse about the prodigal son and the pigsty. She knows where Tom is being held. He is on Jean-Luc’s farm. She goes to the British consulate and tells them about the note and where she thinks Tom is being held. She goes to the farm to see Tom. Then she goes to the Theatro to the performance. At the end of the performance, when the assassination will occur, Faith stands up and shouts. The police and Olivia, who is an MI6 agent, capture Jean-Luc and the Nashes who are involved in a Corsican plot to assassinate the French minister of culture.
This was a good story. It was a little slow in places. There was a lot of food involved but these Faith Fairchild stories are noted for their recipes. These were good food stories, however. The plot was complicated and exposed in the end. The plot to sabotage the school in the middle of the book was a good one. I did like this book.