Nonna Maria and the Case of the Stolen Necklace

A Novel

About the Book

Nonna Maria, “one of the most charming amateur sleuths ever created” (Tess Gerritsen), sets out to clear her goddaughter’s name and uncover the checkered past of an unidentifiable victim in this transporting mystery from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lorenzo Carcaterra.

Nonna Maria has a lot on her plate—and it’s not just fresh pasta. Two crimes have rocked the sun-drenched island of Ischia, and once again the island’s denizens have called upon the espresso-brewing, sage-counsel-giving sleuth.

A wealthy woman alleges that a valuable necklace has been stolen from her hotel room. She blames one of the young women working on the cleaning crew as the most likely suspect—a young woman who turns out to be Nonna Maria’s goddaughter. Loretta takes the heat, but privately she proclaims her innocence.

Nearby, the body of a woman is found on a curved road near the borough of Barano. The woman is not known to anyone on the island. She has no purse, carries no identification. The one suspect is a young friend of Nonna Maria’s who drove by the area that very night and thinks that he might have hit something—a pothole, or an animal, or maybe the woman in question.

It turns out that this woman had a decades-old history on Ischia, but why did she return, and more important, who killed her? It’s up to Nonna Maria to string together the clues—like the links of the beautiful missing necklace—and solve these two mysteries before death comes to Ischia again.
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Praise for Nonna Maria and the Case of the Stolen Necklace

Praise for Nonna Maria and the Case of the Stolen Necklace

“Carcaterra seems to have fun writing about his native Italy, and readers will have just as much fun with this new series. The essence of cozy with its low-key charm, clever plotting, and disarming storytelling, the book is also sharp and subtle.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A streetwise Italian Miss Marple is a shrewd amateur sleuth in this atmospheric series installment.”Library Journal

Praise for Lorenzo Carcaterra and the Nonna Maria series

“An utterly delightful tale starring one of the most charming amateur sleuths ever created, Nonna Maria and the Case of the Missing Bride is so delicious it will make you want to pack your bags and move to Italy!”New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen 

“The brilliant Lorenzo Carcaterra has created his own irresistible genre: the literary cozy. I fell in love with this wonderfully lyrical and completely entertaining novel, and most of all its instantly iconic heroine. Nonna Maria is Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes combined into one wise and unforgettable character. Touching, charming, and delightful—do not miss this!”USA Today bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan

“Lorenzo Carcaterra has written a suspenseful tale while bringing the history, traditions, and colorful characters of the island of Ischia to life. The indomitable Nonna Maria shines throughout. Bravo!”—Camilla Trinchieri, author of the Doyle/Perillo Tuscan mystery series

“A writer who has earned his spot at the top echelon of suspense masters . . . Lorenzo Carcaterra is simply the best.”New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry

“[Carcaterra is] one of the all-time greats.”—#1 internationally bestselling author Jeffery Deaver

“One of my favorite writers in the world.”New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline

“Nostalgia for Ischia’s simpler way of life, nearly lost in the face of the fast-paced modern world, combines successfully with a suspenseful plot and a feisty heroine who’s as kind as she is steely.”Booklist
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Excerpt

Nonna Maria and the Case of the Stolen Necklace

1.

She was found with her back against the side of a pine tree. Dust and scattered cones nestled along the backs of her folded legs, thick strands of dark hair partially covering her face. One of her arms was leaning against the base of the tree and the other was laid out flat, fingers resting on the edge of the curved road. She was motionless, her eyes closed, her lips slightly parted. A gentle wind ruffled her blue-flowered dress, and one of her high-heeled shoes hung loose off her right foot.

It was seven in the morning on what would be another brutally hot summer day in Ischia, the sun rising above the calm waters of the port several miles below, its angled rays slowly beginning to wrap the woman in a blanket of warmth.

Two carabinieri officers parked their motorcycles at an angle to block off access to the road, patiently waiting for the medical examiner to arrive before allowing the body to be removed. A small group had gathered across the way—men and women who had been preparing to open their shops or head to work, stopped by the sight of the body of a woman none seemed to recognize.

The younger of the officers stared at the body, a concerned look on his boyish face. “There’s no blood anywhere,” he said in a low voice. “It’s almost as if she fell over and went to sleep.”

“A sleep that lasts forever,” the other officer said, stepping next to the young carabiniere. “Most likely a heart attack did her in. From the looks of it, she’s been here a few hours. That puts the time of death in the middle of the night. Where would she be going? There’s nothing around here at that hour but shuttered shops and a gas station. Closest house is at least a mile down the road.”

A carabinieri car came up behind them, braking to a stop in front of the two motorcycles. The two officers turned from the woman’s body and waited for their captain to approach them.

Captain Paolo Murino nodded at them and gave a quick glance at the group on the far side of the road. He stepped closer to the dead woman, his eyes taking in the curled body and the area where she had come to rest. “Who called it in?” he asked, without turning his head.

“Local fruit peddler,” the younger officer said. “Told me he was driving past on his way down from his farm, his truck packed with deliveries.”

“Did he stop to check on her?” Captain Murino asked.

“No, sir,” the officer said. “He gave her only a passing look, thought she might have had too much to drink and fell asleep. And he was running late as it was.”

“Did he leave you with a name?”

The younger carabiniere pulled a notebook from his jacket pocket and flipped open several pages. “Caldani,” he said. “Bernardo Caldani.”

“Check him out, make sure he is what he says he is,” Murino said, staring at the younger of the two. “Your first week in Ischia, Franco, and you get to work a homicide. I’m certain that’s not what you expected when you were transferred from Rome. Like anyone else who does a tour on the island, you were looking forward to days filled with quiet street patrols and flirting with tourists.”

“What makes you so certain it was a homicide?” the second officer asked.

“Well, for one thing, her body would be at rest at that angle only if she had a number of broken bones,” Captain Murino said. “I’m sure even you took note of that, Enrico.”

“Yes, sir, I did,” Enrico said. “But she could have fallen, tripped, and landed hard enough to break a bone or two.”

“Perhaps,” Captain Murino said, moving away from the two officers and standing in the center of the road. “But those two black skid marks tell me otherwise. If you compare them to the others on the road, you’ll notice they are darker and deeper. That tells me they’re fresh skid marks. Which might mean the woman’s body was dumped or tossed from a car. She hit the ground hard, causing additional damage to her body.”

“She is someone without a name,” Franco said. “We didn’t want to touch the body until the medical examiner signed off, but we looked for a bag or a purse and there wasn’t any to be found.”

“She has a name,” Captain Murino said. “We just don’t know it yet.”

He turned to gaze out at the harbor below, where the first of the morning tourist boats were starting to head out for their trip around the island, and a packed hydrofoil was coming in to drop off another batch of guests. It was the second week of July and the tourists had been arriving in numbers far greater than any previous year. Murino had been stationed in Ischia for six years now and was still surprised by the thousands who flocked to the island each season. Ischia, eighteen miles off the Naples coast, had been, since the late 1960s, a prime vacation destination for a devoted number of Northern Italian, German, British, and American tourists who packed its many restaurants and beaches and enjoyed the supposedly healing powers of the thermal spas spread across the large island.

Captain Murino was in his mid-thirties, slim, with light brown razor-cut hair and, when the occasion called for it, a warm and engaging smile. He was set to marry a local girl in the fall, weeks after the last of the tourists had left the island, and he planned to make Ischia his permanent home, providing his superiors didn’t have another transfer in mind. He was a Northern Italian who had grown to love the island and its many customs and traditions, but was still regarded with suspicion by many of the locals. Over time, he was ever so slowly building up goodwill and trust among people who gave out such feelings with great reluctance.

“Canvass the area, talk to as many of the locals as you can,” he said to the two officers. “Focus on the ones who live close by. Maybe one or two heard something or, with luck, saw something. Perhaps they might have a clue as to who this woman is or where she came from.”

“Not exactly a pleasant way to begin a new day,” Enrico said, looking back at the crowd, grown larger since he had first come onto the scene.

Captain Murino looked at Enrico for a moment and then turned and stared at the body of the dead woman lying on the side of the quiet road. “Or to end one,” he said in a low voice.

About the Author

Lorenzo Carcaterra
Lorenzo Carcaterra is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Sleepers, A Safe Place, Apaches, Gangster, Street Boys, Paradise City, Chasers, Midnight Angels, and The Wolf. He is a former writer/producer for Law & Order and has written for National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times Magazine, Details, and Maxim. He lives in New York City with Gus, his Olde English Bulldogge, and is at work on his next novel. More by Lorenzo Carcaterra
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Random House Publishing Group