Venetian eccentrics populate a decrepit palazzo.
Twenty-five years ago, three members of the Pindar family lost their lives in a boating accident. From that day on, Apollonia, bereft of her brother and his wife and son, discarded her Fortuny gowns for black crepe and church visits twice a day. Her daughter Eufrosina took to wearing gloves and photographing hands. Her son Alessandro taught himself woodcarving and created caricatures of the whole family. Her niece Gaby became agoraphobic and retreated into overseeing the family two-room museum of collectibles. Her other niece, seamstress Olimpia, donned an all-season ocelot coat and developed romantic penchants for other women. Their brother Ercule obsessed about relocating to Constantinople. The most sensible family member, perhaps because she’s only a distant relative, is Barbara, Contessa da Capo-Zendrini. She introduces them to her maid Mina, who becomes Olimpia’s lover and in the fullness of time is found screaming over her corpse, bloody scissors in hand. When Mina is whisked off to prison, Barbara asks her dear friend Urbino Macintyre (Frail Barrier, 2008, etc.) to investigate. Urbino’s reliably amateur sleuthing unlocks the secret to the Pindar palazzo’s Blue Rooms, the letter-writers known only as A and E, and the menace in Venice.
Any author who loves Venice can’t be all bad, no matter how lacking he is in subtlety or how clumsily he handles suspense. Never mind. Relax, have a cappuccino and enjoy the scenery.