A BED OF EARTH: The Gravedigger's Tale
This deliciously creepy third installment in Lee's Secret Books of Venus series (following Faces Under Water and Saint Fire) deals with death and the question of whether humans have souls. Written from the perspective of Bartolome da Loura di An'Santa, a Settera Master of the Guild of Gravemakers, the story centers on a longstanding feud regarding disputed burial grounds of two powerful families. Like the Italian city-state of Venice on which it's patterned, Venus includes islands, canals, lagoons and little land for Christian burial. Any plot of ground set aside for graves is highly sought after, so when two of the most powerful families in Venus squabble over a patch of earth, the outcome is a vendetta that goes on for generations. At some point, far away from the origins of the feud, a girl from the della Scorpia family, who is betrothed to an evil old shell of a man, takes a fancy to a no-name painter's assistant, loses her virginity and tries to run off with her lover. Unfortunately, when word reaches a member of the other side of the vendetta, the girl and her lover meet a gruesome end. From this awful event comes the winding tale that entangles humans, spirits, death, life and the earth itself. The City of Venus casts a gloomy, ghostly shadow over the plot, and several wickedly ingenious deaths (including death by flamingo) serve to underline Lee's well-earned reputation as a master of dark fantasy. (Sept.)
FYI:The author has won many World Fantasy Awards as well as the August Derleth Award.