“Venetian Gothic” by Philip Gwynne Jones

I figured since we’re pretty much all in the horrible lockdown boat I may as well have a look at my reading backlog. Suffice to say with doing two Masters degrees and also working full time as a teacher AND having a two year old does not leave a whole lot of time for reading. But I do try fit some in and with one of my degrees coming to an end in May hopefully things will calm down a bit and I can get back to my first love. 

Graves-at-San-Michele-cemetary-RnDmS-iStock-www_istockphoto_com_gb_photo_san-michele-island-venice-gm465968610-59502336-RnDmS

(I couldn’t find a decent resolution pic of the cover so here’s a picture of San Michele instead.)

Thanks to Little Brown and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I’m really not a crime/mystery reader. It’s mostly the same issue I have with Romance novels, they’re a fun read but I like books to stick in my mind (for good and bad reasons) and I’ve just never really found any crime novels that did that for me. With the possible exception of Iain Banks but I’m not sure he’d be considered a crime novelist anyway. 

It was the Venice setting that drew me to request this book. Not just Venice but the inclusion of San Michele as a setting too. San Michele is the cemetery island of Venice and if you are planning a trip there, I highly recommend taking the Vaporetto out there for a relaxing stroll. Italians are second only to the French when it comes to cemetery design in my very humble opinion and it’s a really fascinating place to visit. 

The rest is pretty much standard mystery novel fare. There is a mystery and someone has to solve the crime. I’m not trying to be disparaging by saying that, I just don’t want to give anything away.  

The main character is Nathan, the British Honorary Consul in Venice and sometimes translator. I thought this was a quite interesting character choice instead of him being a detective or writer as seems to be usually the case. The author clearly knows Venice like the back of his hand, and it was fun as a reader to revisit places I am familiar with as I was reading. I’m not trying to be pretentious I promise, my grandmother is Venetian. The story itself is very readable and I found myself coming back to it again and again throughout the day it took me to read it, so I definitely felt as if it had that ‘hook’. 

My main issue was the character of Nathan himself. I wondered if this was perhaps one of those cases where the author has written himself into the book the prog rock mentions were a sure giveaway. There is altogether too much mentions of alcohol (seriously, I like wine as much as the next first-generation Italian, but Nathan clearly has a serious issue), coffee, cooking etc. Yes, we get it. It’s Italy but it was just too much, and it detracted from the story itself. Nathan is also one of those rather basic guys who is essentially a bit of a flake yet manages to have a terribly beautiful and clever girlfriend. I’m not sure why she puts up with him all the time because he puts his foot in it constantly and embarasses. I also guessed the twist rather quickly which is always going to ruin things a bit. 

This genuinely is a fun and readable book and I think it would really appeal to people visiting Venice for the first time but I’m not sure how much seasoned crime readers would enjoy it.  

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