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A mysterious ‘treasure hunt’ around VENICE

31st July 2023

The Borgia Portrait by David Hewson, a mysterious ‘treasure hunt’ around Venice.

A mysterious 'treasure hunt' around VENICE

A second Venice-set mystery by David Hewson featuring retired British Archivist, Arnold Clover. We reviewed the first, The Medici Murders, last year and the new book has the same sort of feel. Not a page turning, thrill a minute, escapade – but rather more a considered, thoughtful, and somewhat academic offer. But with a kick.

Arnold is roped in to assist a British lady, Lizzie, whose father has just died and whose mother was presumed to have committed suicide decades before, to sort out her inheritance. And it is not an ordinary inheritance… Her mother was a Venetian contessa, and her father was a rock music impresario of dubious character. Their family home in Venice, a small palazzo on the Grand Canal, had been derelict for years. The palazzo had a reputation for bringing bad luck to its inhabitants. Arnold and Lizzie decide to open it up and explore. But they are not alone. The Venetian authorities want to check on the structure of the building and an unpleasant Venetian business man, Enzo Canale, also claims an interest in the property.

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A female body is found under the building. It is presumed to be that of Lizzie’s mother. With the body is a typed story of ten clues telling the reader how and where to find a very famous / infamous portrait of Lucrezia Borgia – a nude and sensual portrait that had ‘inspired’ many a liaison. Arnold and Lizzie, aided by Venice archivist, Luca Volpetti, and Venetian detective, Valentina Fabbri – both friends of Arnold – set out to follow the clues and find the portrait. But they are not alone in wishing to rediscover the picture, Enzo Canale is also on the trail. Following the clues takes them on an intellectual ‘treasure hunt’ around Venice. They piece together historical references and little known facts as they make progress. Progress that is often slowed by eating and drinking at little restaurants with amazingly mouth watering dishes.

Eventually the portrait is found, but there is still a very dramatic ending to come. The story does not just fizzle out.

What comes through the book loud and clear is David Hewson’s enormous affection for, and knowledge of, Venice. In his Author’s Note at the end of the book he states that with just two exceptions, all the locations featured are real and waiting to be discovered by a tourist explorer who wants to move on a little from The Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square.

The Borgia Portrait is very much recommended.

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Tony for the TripFiction team

Catch David on Twitter @David_Hewson and IG @david.hewson

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