When I began to write Catacomb, the sequel to my first Italian mystery (Burnt Siena) I was determined to engage the reader at the very beginning. That goal was impressed upon me when I attended a conference session in which several authors met with two New York agents. Each author read the first two pages of a work in progress, the agents reacted, and then they passed the author a card saying, “yes, send me more,” or “not interested.” I read two pages from the chapter that begins with a loving description of Siena, Italy, through the eyes of protagonist Flora Garibaldi, and ends with the discovery of a body. The criticisms were, “Well, obviously you want us to know you’ve lived in Italy…” and “I don’t like your protagonist.” Not very encouraging! But those agents didn’t like anything they heard in that room; we authors all came away depressed.