by Nell Valenti, heroine/sleuth of AL DENTE'S INFERNO (Berkley, February 2020)
Twenty minutes after the train deposited me on a warm, deserted platform in Cortona, Italy, I was still waiting for my ride. To pass the time, I stretched and indulged myself in the thrill of the days ahead. I, Nell Valenti, was going to work for my culinary hero, Chef Claudio Orlandini. I had been hired long-distance, out of the blue, by the Orlandinis' lawyer to design a cooking school at their villa in Tuscany. Chef had requested me by name.
For one quick moment I caught sight of a slim man dressed in jeans, wraparound sunglasses, and a black t-shirt leaning against a boxy old grey Fiat. With his arms crossed, he seemed to be looking my way, but when he didn’t make a move, I figured he wasn’t my ride. Still, I was the only one at the station, and it was several hours until the next train. Suddenly nervous, I patted the theft-proof shoulder bag I had bought at a paranoid traveler shop back home.
Making a quick check, I groped my way through my passport, wallet, phone, lipstick, travel-sized mouthwash, earbuds, and cheesy book for the flight. Nothing missing. When I pulled my suitcase closer to my leg in some kind of crazy safety move, I realized the slim man in jeans and wraparounds was gone. So was the boxy old Fiat. Maybe he was waiting for a traveler who never arrived.
Or maybe the traveler he was waiting for had arrived.
In the warm Tuscan air of late September, I felt a sudden chill.
The slim man in the shades wasn't my ride.
He was my tail. . .
AL DENTE'S INFERNO, my first murder investigation at the Tuscan villa of the wonderful Orlandini family, is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at all the usual online stores (B&N, IndieBound, and Amazon), plus walk-in stores near you. Thanks to mystery author Stephanie Cole (Shelley Costa) for transcribing my adventures. Here are two photos of Stephanie on a trip to Tuscany, taken from the top of the Duomo in Florence.