Sunday, July 30, 2017

Crime Fiction in Venice, from Christine Evelyn Volker, VENETIAN BLOOD

You love the Venice crime fiction from Donna Leon? I do. Not only do her books carefully compose clues, stresses, red herrings, and police procedure (plus Italian and Venetian culture and cuisine), but the interactions among the characters -- especially Commissario Guido Brunetti and his family -- deepen the books and their impact. I often pre-order my copies of each new title.

That said, there's generally just one new Donna Leon per year. So to get an extra dash of Venice, one may indulge in less skilled authors who still have a good mystery to offer. And that's the case for Christine Evelyn Volker, whose VENETIAN BLOOD is released in August from She Writes Press.

Volker's mystery shows the signs of an early-career author, especially in the first few chapters. But it gets better, and I enjoyed the final twists, which involve financial dirty dealings and affaires of the heart and body. Plus, the book helped meet that Venice appetite. But don't count on cuisine, or depth of relationships -- Volker's catalyst for relationships tends to be romantic attraction, versus the lines of faith, loyalty, and compassion that Leon lays out so strongly.

Also, for a collector, there are some questions about books from She Writes Press, which occupies the murky middle ground between standard publishers and what used to be called vanity presses. The press president, Brooke Warner, is a regular writer for Huffington Post; see her explanation there, of her press's new arrangement, where established authors mentor new ones, included in the fee. 

In the case of VENETIAN BLOOD were Nina Schuyler and David Corbett. Yes, that's enough to make me sit up and notice.

So should you collect this and/or, more pertinently, pick up a copy to read? My opinion: Yes, if you specifically collect Italian crime fiction. No, if you're going to measure the book against Donna Leon and others at the top of the field. Hope that's enough to help you make a decision. I ended up pleased with the book's plot by the end, but it was rough to get to the middle.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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