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DEADLY TO THE SIGHT by Edward Sklepowich


by Edward Sklepowich

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 2002
ISBN: 0-312-26955-2
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Writer and amateur sleuth Urbino Macintyre is returning to his beloved Venice with protégé Habib Laroussi, a brooding young Moroccan artist, in tow. Urbino refers to Habib as his “companion”; everyone else, including the reader, is left to speculate (and do they ever) on the exact meaning of that euphemism. Urbino reenters the dazzling social orbit of his oldest and dearest friend Barbara, the Countess da Capo-Zendrini, who opens her palazzo to Habib but privately warns Urbino of the young man’s dark side. Indeed, Habib often disappears for hours at a time, returning to Urbino with evasive explanations and guilty eyes. The Countess has little time for talk, however, since she’s busy being smitten by handsome new boatman Giorgio. Glamorous friends float through: Oriana, a gossipy fashion plate in oversized eyeglasses, divorcing indifferent husband Filippo; Frieda, a tall handsome German art enthusiast; and Marino Polidoro, a “gnome-like” gallery owner. But la dolce vita is soured by the visits of elderly lace-maker Nina Crivelli, who spooks all with her gnarled presence and ominous pronouncements (think Maria Ouspenskaya). Habib calls her a witch; the Countess is convinced the crone is trying to blackmail her over family secrets. At length Nina turns up murdered, a piece of lace stuffed into her mouth, and Urbino abandons the book he’s working on to ferret out the killer.

Solid plotting can’t overcome the flat, formal writing and humorless characters. In this sixth Urbino outing (Death in the Palazzo, 1997, etc.), the author captures the grandeur of Venice but neither its sensuality nor its mystery.