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Angie Amalfi is close to one of the biggest breaks of her rocky culinary career—a chance to co–write a cookbook with a famous chef. But as she scrambles to prepare for the impending interview, her realtor sister Cat is suddenly accused of a murder in a rich client's home. A priceless relic—an iron chain that was used to bind St. Peter while in a Roman prison—is missing from her wealthy client Marcello Piccoletti's home, and a murder was committed on the heels of the disappearance. The only person who can clear ...
Angie Amalfi is close to one of the biggest breaks of her rocky culinary career—a chance to co–write a cookbook with a famous chef. But as she scrambles to prepare for the impending interview, her realtor sister Cat is suddenly accused of a murder in a rich client's home. A priceless relic—an iron chain that was used to bind St. Peter while in a Roman prison—is missing from her wealthy client Marcello Piccoletti's home, and a murder was committed on the heels of the disappearance. The only person who can clear Cat's name is the client himself, and he's in Rome, tending to his restaurant, Da Vinci's.
Heedless to Angie's stern warning, the always unpredictable Cat insists on traveling to Rome to confront Picoletti, and Angie must drop everything to accompany her sister. The Roman restaurateur has the chain with him in Rome, and exonerates Cat of the murder as well. Unfortunately, the police in the states still suspect Cat and now Picoletti, the only witness, has disappeared. Angie takes a job as a cook at Da Vinci's, hoping to get to the bottom of this complex mess. And when bodies start piling up like balls of fresh mozzarella at an Amalfi family picnic, it looks like Angie and Cat's trip to their homeland may spell arrivederci Amalfis.
Four marble gargoyles glared down from the roof of the stately home in San Francisco's Sea Cliff district. A For Sale sign had been stabbed into the small patch of lawn beside the driveway.
No one was home. She'd just called, using her cell phone.
A crisp ocean breeze whipped against her thin summer suit, causing her usually perfectly coiffed pale blond hair to fly askew as she opened the lockbox hanging from the doorknob with a Supra key, a computerized entry device. It would leave a record that she'd been there, but at this point that hardly mattered.
Inside the box was the house key, and she used it to enter.
She knew the house well, with its overabundance of electronics gear, its lack of flowers and houseplants, and its need for colorful luxurious towels and a few candles to soften the bathrooms—all easy-to-remedy problems. The large living room looked untouched. Expensive gold and marble objets were exactly where she'd last seen them.
In the bedroom, the safe was located behind a Warhol print. Not very original, but easy to get at. Any good burglar could find a wall safe no matter where it was hidden, anyway. She swung the picture aside and punched in the combination.
The distinctive flatblack leather box was gone.
Her heart sank. How could she prove—
An ear-splitting crack, like a gunshot, echoed through the house.
She started, holding her breath.
It was a car backfiring, nothing more.
But even as she thought that, she was struck with an eerie feeling about the house and felt an overwhelming need to get out of there.
On rubbery legs, she headed toward the entry, when she heard a door slam. The sound came from the far side of the house, from the kitchen.
She forced herself to stop, to be rational. The earlier sound couldn't have been a gunshot, not in this neighborhood. Her imagination had run away with her, that's all. The home owner must have just returned. Now, she could confront him, force him to explain everything.
She hurried to the kitchen.
Sprawled out on the floor before her lay the body of a man, facedown. A gaping, bloody hole covered the base of his head, blood oozing all around him.
No one could survive that, she thought. She turned cold, deathly cold, as she crept closer. Is it . . . ?
Relief coursed through her. She couldn't see his face, but his black hair was streaked with gray. He was older than the man she'd feared he might be.
Still, the world began to spin at the sight, and she immediately looked away, stumbling backward and gripping a countertop.
Through the kitchen window, she saw the shadowy figure of a man dash from the house. Behind this home and its neighbors was an alleyway for garbage trucks, service deliveries, and the like. There, the man got into an older, black Volvo. She only saw him from behind, and he wore a flat gray cap with a small visor—very European looking.
In his hand was a black box. The color and shape were like that of the container she'd expected to find in the safe.
The one she'd been looking for . . .
He was taking it . . . getting away!
And at her feet lay a dead man.
Then, completely unlike the normally composed, contained, self-controlled businesswoman that she was, Caterina Amalfi Swenson let out a string of curses.
Angelina Amalfi hung up the phone and cha-cha-cha'ed her way around the living room of her Russian Hill penthouse apartment. Life was good. She was engaged; she'd lost the six pounds she'd gained vacationing in Arizona—well, half; and now . . . now! . . . she could scarcely breathe she was so excited.
Internationally known chef Jacques Poulon-Leliellul was going to be in San Francisco next Monday, and he wanted to meet with her, Angie Amalfi, to talk about assisting him in the writing of his next cookbook. Recipes from his restaurant in the city, which apparently wasn't doing very well, would be featured, and he wanted a local food writer to be involved. He'd heard about her from a friend of a friend, and had his secretary phone to make an appointment if she was interested.
Was she ever! "Mr. Poulon-Leliellul is a creator of food, not sentences," his secretary explained.
"I understand completely," Angie said, bursting with enthusiasm for the project. "I can't wait to meet him."
"You'd be his ghostwriter," the secretary added.
Angie thought a moment—ghostwriters were called "ghosts" because they were unseen; their names weren't given. Could she get around that? She was sure she'd do such a fantastic job that not only could she convince the chef to include her name on the cover, he'd positively demand it. "I understand."
"Just one more thing," the secretary warned. "Be sure you pronounce his name correctly. Americans tend to do really horrible things to French names."
"Of course—Monsieur Leliellul." Angie spoke clearly and distinctly.
The secretary sounded relieved. "You have a lovely accent, but keep in mind that he prefers Poulon-Leliellul."
"I'll remember," Angie promised.
The conversation ended with another word of caution. "Noon on Monday. Be prompt. Chef Poulon-Leliellul demands punctuality."
"No problem," Angie said, before lavishing thanks and a good-bye. As it was only Tuesday, she had an entire week to study his recipes, his culinary philosophy, and anything else she could learn about the man. That was plenty of time since the only other thing she had to do was to finalize her wedding plans. She still had a few decisions to make: what kind of wedding, where to have it, and when. Matter of fact, the only thing she'd nailed down was who.
She was just about to phone that "who"—her tall, handsome, broad-shouldered, blue-eyed fiancé, San Francisco Homicide inspector Paavo Smith—with the exciting news when the phone rang again.
Excerpted from The Da Vinci Cook by Joanne Pence Copyright © 2007 by Joanne Pence. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 14, 2009
I really enjoyed the first few Angie Amalfi books -- the first one easily being the best. When the characters remain in San Francisco, the books are much better. I had a hard time finishing The Da Vinci Cook - overuse of the word "goons" and with lines like "you stay and look for the mean stupid men" and (referring to a famous French chef) "I accidentally called him 'Chef Poo-Poo'" -- I felt my five year old was aiding in the writing. The Angie Amalfi character has gotten "zany" to the point of painful -- Ms. Pence is trying too hard. If you want zany, read the Janet Evanovich series. If you love cooking mysteries, try Diane Mott Davidson and for superb character development in a mystery series, the Philip Craig series set in Martha's Vineyard is excellent.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2007
Having Angie and Paavo back is another 'warm, fuzzy' feeling. Although some situations were a bit far-fetched even for Angie it was great to be with Angie and Paavo again. While reading this one, I kept thinking 'It's so great to have them back in my life.' After thirteen books, I feel as if I'm spending time with close friends and family. Some of the sparkle is back in this book 'COURTING DISASTER fell short'. Although I really enjoyed the 'zaniness' in the earlier books, I realize it's difficult to keep that level of 'fun spirit' going. 'Thus only 4 stars because I miss it.' I hate having to wait such a long time between Angie/Paavo's fun and adventures. I frequently check Joanne Pence's web page for their next adventure. I love it, love it, love it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 10, 2007
I enjoyed spending time with Angie again but missed Paavo. There wasn't any real Angie/Paavo personal interaction and dialogue but at least the connection is still there. I love the mental imagery presented by Ms. Pence. I love this series and feel like a close friend when reading about their adventures. The biggest negative with this series is the year+ wait between books. I'm anxious for more zaniness from Angie and Paavo's attempts to keep the lid on. I did miss having Angie in the kitchen with her culinary experiments and activities. Please, please continue this love affair going for many years to come.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 17, 2007
Angie Amalfi ends up following her sister Caterina to Rome after Cat finds a man dead in a house she¿s trying to sell for Marcello Piccoletti. Unfortunately Cat is a suspect in the murder, and fleeing the country doesn¿t bode well. Angie and Cat have trouble locating Marcello when they arrive in Rome. Finally they end up working at his restaurant, Da Vinci¿s, in hopes of running into him. Plus a potentially priceless religious relic is missing. Homicide Detective Paavo Smith, Angie¿s fiancé is trying to clear Cat¿s name and solve the murder when there are more murders. Plus Angie and Cat¿s three sisters and mother are constantly showing up to ¿help¿ him. He¿s also trying to talk Angie into returning home. Unfortunately she doesn¿t return as fast as he¿d like. Can the murders be solved in time to get Cat and Angie home safe? Can Cat and Angie stay safe in Rome with people following them? I think this was one of the best books in this series. There is always so much going on on both sides of the ocean that the story never lulled. It gave us some better insight into Angie¿s family as well. I loved the setting of Rome as well. Angie is such a fun character. She¿s pretty level headed, even when they find themselves in some dicey situations. I highly recommend this book and the whole series. Give it a try. You¿ll be glad you did!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.