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Marlene M. Bell
Scattered Legacy
Antiquities expert Annalisse Drury and tycoon Alec Zavos revel in a love affair peppered with treasure hunting, adventure, and the occasional dead body. It’s autumn when Alec arranges a getaway from them to visit is mother’s Italy birthplace—a no-drama vacation to transfer his car company to a rival. But before they can depart New York, murder makes its familiar reappearance. Accompanied by detective friend Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father—linking him to the Mafia. An ancient rosary propels Annalisse toward the truth.
In the engaging third mystery in Bell’s Annalisse Series, antiques expert Annalisse Drury flies with her swoon-worthy millionaire boyfriend Alec Zavos to Bari, Italy, for a working vacation. But a mafia-connected woman’s murder puts Josh Jennings—a shady coworker of Alec’s deceased father—in the police spotlight, threatening Alec’s sale of his family’s lucrative business. One murder leads to another, all while Annalisse searches for clues about an ancient rosary’s ownership, the nexus of multiple mysteries. A crime-scene calico cat named Stella, a nun who speaks in riddles, and a dash of romance keep the pace rapid in this solid whodunnit.

Bell’s plethora of characters charm but can also overwhelm, challenging the reader to guess which ones play essential roles in this sleight-of-hand suspense. Readers already familiar with the earlier Annalisse sleuth mysteries will have a leg up when it comes to following Scattered Legacy’s narrative. Several portraits are recognizable types, such as a mafia godfather known as “The Birdman,” and others are strikingly original, but all add welcome, vivid liveliness. Throughout, Bell delivers memorable scenery, complete with orecchiette pasta dishes and tarantella music, tempting readers to book a one-way flight to southern Italy.

Best of all, Annalisse’s wry interpretations of events offer laugh-out-loud moments—she is a unique detective, endowed by Bell with a distinctive snappy voice in narration and dialogue both. Her expertise and nearly supernatural ability to detect an object’s significance by touching it combine to fascinating effect, such as when the centuries-old rosary medallion hurts her hand, and ominous artifacts like a blackbird broach planted in her purse add to the juicy intrigue. Although her relationship with Alec takes a back seat to solving the crimes, their love culminates in a climactic shocker the reader won’t forget. Both travel junkies and mystery lovers will savor Bell’s polished and witty mystery.

Takeaway: Mystery fans will relish this sly whodunnit, in which an antiques expert sleuth is on the case in romantic Italy.

Great for fans of: David P. Wagner’s Cold Tuscan Stone, Adriana Licio.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A