THE VENETIAN MASQUERADE by PHILIP GWYNNE JONES

What a pleasure to plunge back into the Venetian world of Nathan Sutherland, the Honorary British Consul in Venice, and otherwise a translator of documents – often boring, and increasingly Brexit related.

“The Venetian Masquerade” is the 3rd in this charming series, and we are re-united with Nathan, his long-suffering Venetian girlfriend Fede, and his equally long-suffering mate Dario.

Venice in Carnavale sounds romantic, but the reality is a cold, foggy, rainy city, with hordes of tourists in cheap masks wandering the streets. There is an air of melancholy, almost menace, in the freezing streets and the grey skies.

A birthday visit to the opera opens the book, but within just a few pages we have a murder, one into which Nathan is unwittingly drawn, simply because the dead man had his visiting card. The problem is that he has never met the man, never even heard of him. Nathan’s curiosity is naturally piqued and he gets more and more involved, as the murder somehow seems to be connected to the score of a 17th century lost opera.

And I’ll leave it right there, so as not to plot-spoil.

Mr. Gwynne Jones brings Venice alive in so many little ways – the food, the coffee bars, the aperitifs in the local bar – while also affording us a glimpse of a world of smart masked parties in the Casino and nights at the opera.

Nathan’s grumpy cat Gramsci is an increasing show-stealer, as is the delightful vicar at the English church, Michael Rayner, who swears like a trooper and battles Venice’s dodgy electrical circuits – if you put the kettle on in the vestry, the church lights go out – that kind of dodginess.

Good fun.

And with the city being such an integral part of the book, it is a delight to wander the streets (despite the rain and the fog) with Nathan, discovering his world, his haunts and his favourite places.

Recommended.

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