DEADLY TO THE SIGHT

Edward Sklepowich, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-26955-5

Venice, the city of courtesans, spies and diplomats, and Burano, the nearby island of lace makers, serve as the backdrops for this atmospheric mystery. Reuniting American expat Urbino Macintyre with his close friend the elegant Barbara, Contessa da Capo-Zendrini, from an earlier adventure (Death in the Palazzo), Sklepowich's sixth book is a tale of blackmail and murder distinguished by its attention to the "magical, winter-haunted city" of canals and multiple allusions to The Arabian Nights. Urbino, who has returned to his much-loved city after a year in Morocco, brings the talented and charming young artist Habib Laroussi back as his protégé. The contessa, meanwhile, is being stalked by an old lace maker, whom Habib says has the evil eye and calls a strega—a witch. When the old woman dies during a party on Burano, Urbino, convinced she was murdered, wanders the island and the city looking for evidence. When Habib is charged with the murder of the contessa's boatman—largely because he's an Arab—Urbino's search becomes more intense. Sklepowich offers fine portraits of a dozen men and women (natives and foreigners) who are involved and suspected, though the large cast is hard to keep track of. The author is best at evoking the city itself—the fog, the dampness and the chill that hang over its picturesque face. Readers who are fond of Venice may find such details alone worth the price of admission, but others may be disappointed by the routine sleuthing and the strained ending. (Feb. 18)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
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