***This book was reviewed for She Writes Press via Netgalley & for the Manhattan Book Review
Volker’s Venetian Blood weaves alluring language, seductive setting, the charm of shadowed history, and cunning intrigue into a (modern) historical mystery so tantalising you will be swept away from word one.
Anna Lucia Lottol, a financial investigator for the US Department of Treasury falls under suspicion by Italian officials in the death of one Count Sergio Corrin whilst visiting that most beautiful of riparian cities, Venice. In order to avoid being arrested for the murder, Anna begins looking into Sergio’s death on her own. It is true, she knew Sergio, had even met him not long before. She turns her own particular skills to her task, digging deeper into Corrin’s finances. Anna knew him to be a money launderer, and thinks perhaps his death was tied to that. Anna’s friend Margo, a journalist, joins her in the effort to clear Anna’s name.
The search leads her to some odd places, including the family archives of Count Alessandro Favier, a friend of Margo’s, whose house is alive with history, and to Corrin’s Galleria, which currently houses an impressive amount of tribal art from Tanzania, some done by Azizi, a Tanzanian artist Corrin sponsored. While there are plenty with reason to wish Sergio dead, Anna and Margo can find no concrete proof. Gradually, others, such as Agatha and Dudley, and Roberto Cavallin, are drawn into confidence. But can Anna trust them? When a cart accident lands Anna in a canal, nearly costing her life, she knows she must be getting close to the truth. But who to truly trust?
This story drew me in straightaway, and I was loathe to stop, to leave the wind- and water-swept lure of an ancient city with a modern puzzle. The language and phrasing are delicious, pure poetry, reflective of the Italian language itself. Volker has interspersed liberal Italian into the story, while we are on said language. It prompted my rusting beginners Italian to kick in, breathing music and proper pronunciation, even if I couldn’t always suss out the meaning. Volker tended that aspect as well, translating into English, or giving enough English context to make an educated guess at meaning. This city on paper and its people felt so real, the culture authentic.
While Corrin’s murder, and Anna’s plight are threads woven all throughout, there are dozens of smaller stories, old and new, that draw you to the other characters as well. What are the true circumstances of the death of Alessandro’s family? Why did Pablo, another guest of Alessandro, and an acquaintance of Sergio, really lose his medical license? What is Roberto Cavallin hiding? Like delicate drops of ink on watercolour, bits of history are added in, daubed with a sense of romantic mystery. Why did Torcello become mostly abandoned? Who is the singer Anna heard, when the clerk at her pensione insists there was no such thing?
But most of all, can Anna let go of the past and open herself up to trust again?
📚📚📚📚📚 Highly recommended