Lady Emily investigates the murder of a Venetian count, unleashing a veritable Pandora’s boxful of ancient scandals.
In this latest addition to Alexander's Lady Emily Victorian mystery series (A Crimson Warning, 2011, etc.), our heroine, along with her fetching husband of five years, Colin Hargreaves, arrives in Venice to aid her erstwhile rival, Emma, who married Paolo, son and heir of the Barozzi family, only to discover that the fortunes of this hoary branch of Venetian nobility were in serious decline. Now, the patriarch, Conte Barozzi, is dead of stab wounds, Paolo has gone into hiding, and there are no clues to the identity of the murderer, or rather, too many clues. A ruby ring with the initials BB and NV is found clutched in the deceased conte’s hand. With the aid of a bookseller’s scholarly daughter, Donata, Lady Emily tracks down an array of leads. Venice, it seems, does not lack for those who had it in for Conte Barozzi. Among them are Paolo, whose inheritance might have been at stake, a fired Barozzi gardener, and two women whom the conte antagonized, including a medium who delivered an unpleasant message from his late wife. And of course, Vendelinos are always suspect when a Barozzi is murdered—the feud between the two noble Venetian families dates back to the crusades. Interspersed with Emily’s peregrinations of the watery city are short vignettes about the doomed love between Besina Barozzi and Nicolò Vendelino in late-15th-century Venice. Forbidden to marry Nicolò, Besina is forced by her parents into a marriage with a brutal man. Before she ends her days in a convent, a tryst with Nicolò results in a son whose legacy may hold the key to both the Barozzi financial quagmire and the conte’s murder. Just exactly how involves multiple threads as convoluted and murky as Venetian back alleyways, but thanks to authoritative depictions of Venice’s history, atmosphere and culinary delights, the story glides along as smoothly as a gondola.
Lady Emily travels well.