Review by Cristina Bruno
Author: Alex Connor
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Literary genre: historical thriller
Anno di pubblicazione: 2020
Synopsis. The staggering wealth of Venice contrasts the brutal lives of those in the ghetto. Opportunistic merchants arrive to make their fortune. Deception, malice and perversion thrive, leading to the emergence of a dark society: The Wolves of Venice. Drawn into the Wolves’ plots are the innocents – including Marco Gianetti, assistant to Tintoretto; Ira Tabat, a Jewish merchant; Giorgio Gabal, an artist’s apprentice; and Giovanni Spoletto, the doomed castrato – all manipulated by the likes of Pietro Aretino, the courtesan Tita Boldini and the spy Adamo Baptista. The lives of these characters criss-cross one another. Their destinies intermingle in a Venice corrupted by spies lingering in the shadows, working for paymasters that change allegiance with the wind. As the betrayals, murders and tragedies continue, will anyone be able to bring the Wolves of Venice to justice?
We are in Venice, in the first half of the 16th century. The Republic begins to feel the effects of new shipping routes, while still maintaining a political and commercial significance. In this historical framework we see two great painters like Tiziano and Tintoretto who are competing for high profiles assignments.
We immediately meet Marco Gianetti, son of Jacopo, a venetian noble. Marco is accepted in the workshop of Tintoretto, even if his talent isn’t sufficient to provide him a concrete artistic future.
We learn that Marco’s father doesn’t appreciate him and he almost doesn’t talk to him.
These hard feelings have very old origins, it is caused by the fact that his mother died shortly after she gave birth to him. The young Marco forges a relationship with a Jewish doctor, Ira Tarbat and Rosella, the simple but charming sister who sits for Tintoretto.
Marco is fragile and insecure and so a bit at a time he is caught in the net of Pietro Aretino, cleverand corrupt poet at the court of the doge. Sadly it isn’t a smart move to enter in the entourage of Aretino and his partner Adamo Battista. The price to pay is high and Marco will lose important friendships like those of Ira and Rosella are.
Meanwhile Gabriella Russo disappears. She is the maid of the draper Marina Castilano. A few days after her body will be found in the water terribly mutilated. The murder seems to be related to other murders happened in Europe and it involves a strange man who is wandering in Venice, the Dutch Der Witt.
Mysterious clues lead to a group called “the wolves” that sow hatred and death. Between noblesand courtesans, painters and merchants the plot proceeds pressing but the open final suggests the game is all to play.
Who are the mysterious wolves responsible for intrigues and murders and who are prowling through Venice, or maybe through Europe?
These and others questions remain suspended waiting for the sequel: the second and third part of the trilogy.
As usual in Connor’s book the narrative revolves around art. In this case we are led to Tintoretto’s workshop where we can follow the different steps of his work: from preparing pigments to creating little scale models representing scene that will be painted. It’s interesting to see as Tintoretto and his “opponent” Tiziano interact with other characters. Some of them are fictional, others have really lived in that period, as Pietro Aretino. So we can observe skirmishes between painters contending favors of powerful men and we can notice their diametrically opposed behavior.
In parallel with the artistic story, we are involved by the investigative one, in pursuit of the culprit of the puzzling murders.
Venice, the lady of the seas in a gradual decline, is evoked in the background like a never intrusive character. It is a Venice more imaginary than real where all that matters is a suggestion of an atmosphere and it isn’t the precision of historical or architectural detail.
Edited by Cristina Bruno
Alex Connor: was born and educated in England. She has had a variety of careers including photographic model, personal assistant to a famous heart surgeon, and working in a Bond Street art gallery. Having always had an intense interest in the history of art, Alex – who has previously written historical novels and non–fiction – is now concentrating on writing conspiracy thrillers set in the art world.
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