Lead Review

  • Book: The Venetian Masquerade
  • Location: Venice
  • Author: Philip Gwynne Jones

Review Author: tripfiction



The Venetian Masquerade is the third book in Philip Gwynne Jones’ Nathan Sunderland, Honorary Consul series. It is every bit as good as the first two – The Venetian Game and Vengeance in Venice. The formula for all three is similar (and none the worse for that… familiarity provides a comfort zone). There is a very good ‘arty’ mystery, some violence, a great deal of detail about the buildings and canals of Venice (Philip lives there and clearly knows the city extremely well), and references to Nathan’s culinary skills – together with some enticing recipes. It is a powerful mix.

There are rumours that an old, and lost, original score of an opera by Monteverdi (The Rape of Proserpina) exists in the city. This really excites Thomas Lockwood (a very famous conductor) and Isotta Baldan (his live-in partner and equally famous soprano). They are performing at the Teatro La Fenice. Nathan and his partner, Fede, are in the audience for his surprise birthday present… A man in a box opposite them is stabbed to death… The police visit Nathan the next day, the victim had one of his business cards (he works as a translator) in his pocket. Nathan is also approached by Thomas and Isotta who ask him to help find the missing manuscript (his fame as a sleuth has obviously spread…).

All this is set during Carnevale, when Venice is a masked paradise for any killer or villain. One particular person, masked as Dr Beak – an old Venetian character who sorted the living from the dying in the time of the plague – attracts Nathan’s attention. He stalks Nathan and threatens both him and Fede. But who is he, and does he have any connection to the missing score?

The plot develops apace via an intriguing and violent evening at The Masquerade ball and another murder at the Anglican Church of St George (see the map at the beginning of the book to understand the geography…). Something pretty serious is happening. Nathan, of course, works it out and all the pieces fall into place. The finale is on stage at La Fenice during a rehearsal. It is a good and imaginative story, well told.

Nathan and Fede then return to their apartment, their cat Gramsci, and their cooking. All is quiet until Philip writes the next outing for the Honorary Consul. I look forward to it.

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