Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Week in Venice with Chris Ewan

With the lovely smells of Parisian bakeries still a close memory, I moved on to the dank, fetid, mysterious city of Venice to satisfy my curiosity about Chris Ewan's series of books about a good thief. The Good Thief's Guide to Venice is the 4th but what the heck! I'm rebellious enough to begin at the end and go backwards. What I really wanted was a novel that would remind me of the oh too short three days that I spent in Venice on my first trip to Italy - what seems like a hundred years ago.

What I got was that and so much more! If any of you, my readers, recall the television series Moonlighting and the evolving sexual tension between the snarky Bruce Willis and his partner Sybil Shepherd, then you'll know exactly what's on offer in this light but clever mystery series, a nice break from the darker look at humanity on offer from, say, Michael Connelly, whose latest, The Drop, I just finished listening to.

Our good thief, Charlie Howard, is apparently trying to give up the thieving aspect of his life for a full time career as a mystery writer. Moving to Venice, hoping for inspiration, he is working on a stand alone novel. But a hefty dose of writer's block and self doubt have conspired to give Charlie the jitters so he's invited his friend and agent Victoria to join him in la Fenice for a little moral support.

Charlie is a very funny guy. His inner monologue is wise-ass perfection and the quick repartee between Charlie and Victoria keeps the plot clipping along at a good pace. Naturally, Charlie is not destined for the contemplative life of a novelist so, after his home is invaded by a buxom, blonde Italian, who outsmarts Charlie at his own game, stealing his most prized possession, a first edition of The Maltese Falcon, Charlie doesn't hesitate to get our his tools of the robbery trade.

What he didn't figure on was how adeptly Victoria would jump into the fray, proving to be a quick study in the art of deception. Exploding bombs, stolen vaporettos, bloodied bodies, and late night chases through the misty alleyways of Venice culminate in an evening of tuxedoed luxury at the one of the oldest casinos in Europe (and one I've actually been in!) where a crooked black jack dealer is about to steer a half million euros to a partner in crime.

Plenty of fun and a great break from the real world, Chris Ewan's book provided me with respite, but didn't intrigue me enough to give up any more literary reading time to another chase through another city. You may feel differently though. If so, check out his website at:

As for me, I found a big fat mailer from Varick Street in NYCity on my chair yesterday at work. You know what that means? A new book from Library Journal and it looks intriguing, Three Strong Women by a French/Senegalese author named Marie NDiaye. I've already looked her up and it's pretty intimidating news. This novel, first published in France in 2009, won the most prestigious Prix Goncourt. The pressure's on folks!

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