Reunion with Death by New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly is about a trip to Italy taken by a bunch of 60+ year old women who went to Wellesley many years ago. The beautiful Tuscan landscape is marred by an unexpected death and the shadow of doubt looms over the whole group. The novel is inspired by an actual trip the author took along with her classmates (sans the murder).
Laura Shumway is a 60 something divorced woman with a young girl in college. She decides to go on a trip proposed by her former college mates to Italy. Laura has fond memories of Tuscany which she visited just after college. Once an art major, Laura has moved ahead into a government job. She does something hush hush, and the actual nature of her job is never mentioned, but there are vague references to it throughout the book. I wonder what difference it would have made to the story if Laura was stated to be a federal agent or working for the NSA or some similar agency.
Their first stay is at a place run by an American expatriate couple. The ladies huff and puff climbing stairs and hills but pretty much grin and bear it. There is loads of wine, and lots of food in the form of pasta. The only indulgences are gelato, no hunky Italian men here! As the ladies and Laura visit surrounding places and soak up the history of the region, their hosts plan a surprise. A former Wellesley professor who lives in the region is invited to give a talk. And that stirs up a hornet’s nest. It seems the professor was quite a jerk and got away with mistreating many a young student during his tenure at Wellesley. But he went a bit too far with someone because the professor is found dead the next day. Laura is the one to find him and she uses her mysterious contacts to warn the powers that be that foul play could be involved.
As the group of ladies moves on to Cinque Terre’ to another picturesque vineyard, the police finally catch up with them. Laura gathers the troops and tries to solve the murder herself. Will she succeed in finding the killer? What if it is one of her friends?
Reunion With Death rambles on and takes you on that trip to Tuscany you may have always dreamed of. There is a lot of talk of history like the Medicis who ruled the region. The assumption is that the reader knows these things very well. Laura is shown to be logical and analytical, and her friend an efficient hacker. There is mention of the ‘old times’, presumably the 60s and 70s and how any sexual harassment slid under the radar in those days. Some themes like Laura and her ‘job’ are alluded to several times.
Overall, this is a slow paced leisurely mystery story that lets you enjoy the sights. So much that you might easily forget it is about a murder!