THE LAST GONDOLA: A Mystery of Venice

Edward Sklepowich, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne $24.95 (357p) ISBN 978-0-312-29049-8

In his seventh Urbino Macintyre mystery (after 2002's Deadly to the Sight), Sklepowich nicely evokes modern Venice with its narrow streets, twisting canals and magnificent old houses, but these attractive details serve merely as backdrop for an overlong story that fails to grip. An American expatriate and author of biographies, Macintyre is obsessed by Samuel Possle, an elderly recluse whose cooperation he seeks for his next book. That preoccupation guides his nighttime wanderings, and he repeatedly finds that his path leads to the mysterious hermit's palazzo. On one such excursion, Macintyre witnesses, or thinks he witnesses, a severed head being dangled from an upper story, as ghostly shrieks seem to accuse the building itself of monstrous evil. As he seeks the right entree into Possle's company, his patroness, Contessa da Capo-Zendrini, whose latest benefaction is Macintyre's own personal gondola, asks him to look into a minor domestic puzzle: certain of her clothes and jewels have started to disappear. Unsurprisingly, Macintyre's inquiry into the missing items ends up apparently connecting with Possle's household. The reader has to turn far too many pages before gaining a sense of what the sleuth is supposed to be solving. The Gothic climax leads to an overly pat resolution that does little to burnish Macintyre's reputation as an amateur detective. (July 7)

Reviewed on: 06/16/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5113-2529-5
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