My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lara McClintoch is the half-owner of an antiques shop in Toronto. One of her customers, an internationally famous architect and world-class jerk, wants to hire her to go to Malta to set up his newly built house there. He wants her to oversee the delivery and placement of furniture and see that the house is ready for a big soiree that he's planning to entertain various highly important people.
Lara, with some misgivings, agrees to take the assignment, but when she arrives in Malta, she finds the house still not completed and workmen in a feverish race to get everything done on time.
Soon after she arrives, strange things start happening. She sees a mysterious hooded figure at the edge of the garden at night. Then a cat is murdered and left on the property. The brake lines on the car she had been given to use are cut. And perhaps creepiest of all, an odd and obnoxious man whom she first saw on the plane keeps turning up everywhere she goes in Malta. It seems apparent that someone is trying very hard to scare and/or warn her.
The architect's housekeeper and her husband and son are on hand to assist Lara, but she feels intuitively that something is not as it should be.
Finally, the furniture arrives and Lara notices that one of the pieces is different from the pieces that were chosen back in Toronto. Instead of an armoire, there is a large chest. She opens it up and inside she finds the body of the architect. Someone has put an end to his jerkitude by murdering him. There seems to be no lack of possible suspects, his wife being perhaps first on the list.
The first question to be settled is, where did the murder happen? Was it back in Canada or when the plane had a layover in Rome? It takes a while to settle this question definitively, but in the meantime, the RCMP sends one of their sergeants over to assist in the investigation since the man killed was a Canadian.
The mystery deepens further when the odd man from the plane also turns up dead. Murdered. Is there a connection between the two murders and does it have anything to do with some allegedly lost treasure on Malta that is somehow related to the worship of the Great Goddess?
Complexities and complications abound and red herrings are strewn all over the place, but Lara manages to assist the local Maltese police and the visiting Mountie in their inquiries.
I liked the fact that the author started each chapter with a brief entry that addressed some aspect of the history of the Great Goddess and of Malta, and I liked the character of the feminist Professor Stanhope who was engaged in teaching her students about the Great Goddess. However, I felt that Lyn Hamilton did this character a disservice in the arc of the story that she gave her. She was very stereotypically described as a dried-up spinster who fell madly in love with the first younger guy who showed up and showed an interest in her. That just didn't mesh with her image as an accomplished historian with a deep interest in and understanding of the Goddess culture.
I felt this book was an improvement over the first entry in the archeological mystery series. Lara seemed not quite as ditsy as she was in the first one and her interaction with the visiting Mountie seemed fraught with possibilities. I wonder if we'll meet him again in later books.
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