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by Joseph Kanon
Henry Holt, April 2005
416 pages
ISBN: 080507886X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It is early in 1946 and Adam Miller has recently been released from the U.S. Army, his most recent stint in Frankfurt assisting in the prosecution of Nazis. His widowed mother has moved to Venice in an attempt to recapture the careless glitter of younger days in the pre-jet set, and so he goes there, having not much else in mind. He drifts; Venice was untouched by the fighting and appears, as ever, serene.

Then, at a party, he meets a young woman, an Italian Jew, not untouched by the war. There is an immediate spark; very quickly he progresses from lust to love. Meanwhile, Adam's mother, in renewing old friendships in Venice, has found a deeper relationship blooming among them, a doctor of ancient Venetian lineage, with doges in the family.

Romance in Venice, though, is not so idyllic as one might suppose. Despite characters repeatedly advising each other that the war is over, much remains unresolved. Venice was occupied, times were hard; who resisted, who collaborated, who was caught in between? No one really wants to confront these issues, but they are inescapable.

This story is full of twists and turns, some quite startling. I found it very engaging and well written. The characters have depths that take some time to plumb, and Our Hero in particular presents us with wrenching dilemmas. And I found the setting to be exceptionally well done; the idiosyncrasies of Venice are deeply woven into the tale, and the sense of place is enormously present on every page. By the end, I quite felt as if I'd had a journey there.

The feel of the period, too, is well presented. I hesitate to say that it evokes a film noir feeling, but only because I have read too many novels that were clearly intended for the film market, and the sheer mercenary quality of this intention blazes from every page. Not so here, but I did keep seeing Joseph Cotten in the lead role.

Reviewed by Diana Sandberg, April 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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