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Mystery set in Northern Italy at the end of WW2

19th April 2017

The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith – mystery set in Northern Italy.


Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 14.27.30The Girl from Venice is a mystery set in Northern Italy as the end of WW2 approaches. It in not, though (despite its title) set primarily the Venice of tourists… Giulia, from a rich Venetian Jewish family, escapes into the Venice lagoon after the murder of her parents by the Germans. She is rescued by Cenzo, a fisherman from Pellestrina – a long thin island that separates the lagoon from the Adriatic. She hides out with him and learns to fish with him, but they soon discover it is too dangerous for her to stay… Cenzo (who by this time has fallen in love with her, and she with him) arranges for her to be spirited away to safety… He soon hears that Russo, the friend with whom he sent her off, is missing – perhaps dead. He sets out to find what may have happened to her.

mystery set in northern italy

‘Germany is really your friend’

The trail leads him to Salò, a small town on Lake Garda – ‘capital’ of the Republic of Salò, the place where Mussolini (having been rescued by the Germans from his fate in Rome) lives in splendid denial of what is happening around him – as the allies sweep up from the South and he is increasingly isolated. Salò is like a state within a state. We meet the morphine controlled Argentinian consul and his forger wife – Cenzo is befriended by the wife, and moves in social circles with which he is unfamiliar. There is intrigue aplenty – Italian fascists vying with Italian partisans to mould the future of Italy, all this under the watchful eyes of the German military. Cenzo’s brother (Giorgio) also appears in Salò – popping up as he does throughout the book. Giorgio has escaped Pellestrina and become a successful film actor and radio personality. He also stole Cenzo’s wife Blog panel(later killed in a film set accident) and is at the centre of much of the intrigue. There is a love / hate relationship between the brothers (erring on the side of hate). Cenzo eventually tracks Giulia down and rescues her. They experience the somewhat surreal events of Mussolini’s unsuccessful attempt to flee Salò by air, and themselves make their own escape back to Pellestrina – where the story moves to a thrilling conclusion and Giulia identifies the betrayer of her parents.

The Girl from Venice is a fascinating book covering a period of quite recent history – about which I knew not a lot. The basic story could well have been true. It is written in a style that is (intentionally) exaggerated and unlikely. The details are amusing and a tad fanciful – and do not stand too much probing. But, nevertheless, it is a very worthwhile read. It bowls along and keeps the reader’s attention.

Tony for the TripFiction Team

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