A romantic potboiler set in turn-of-the-17th-century Venice.
Readers meet Cassandra at the funeral of one of her best friends. Distraught, she leaves the funeral and bumps into a cocky young artist. That night, Cass goes wandering in the graveyard next to her guardian aunt's villa across the lagoon and discovers that her friend's body has been taken from its tomb and replaced with another's, a murder victim. Readers will not be nearly as astonished as Cass that she meets the artist again next to the tomb. Though she is betrothed to another, she and Falco quickly team up to solve the mystery. Their investigations involve many hugely unlikely excursions into Venice proper: to a charnel house, a brothel and a masked ball, all at night. Fortunately, Cass' aunt is wealthy, so she has gowns aplenty to replace the ones that get ripped, rained upon and otherwise ruined. Though the setting should be evocative, worldbuilding is continually hamstrung by clichéd and clunky American colloquialisms that overwhelm the occasional mild Italian imprecation. Steamy make-out sessions with Falco tempt Cass to adopt his carpe diem attitude—but could he be hiding a sinister secret? Her betrothed returns from France, setting up a love triangle that may prompt readers who make it to the end to pick up subsequent volumes.
Those reading the book for the mystery will have given up long before it grinds to its tepid, 400-plus–page conclusion. (Historical mystery. 14 & up)