David Hewson. Delacorte Press, $21.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33794-6
In this Venetian thriller, British author Hewson (A Season for the Dead) offers a tantalizing tale of intrigue, murder and sex. Two props propel the action: a concerto penned by a young Jewish woman in 1733 and performed once, anonymously, before its disappearance, and her unique violin. When in the present day this instrument is snatched from an obscure grave and the anonymous concerto is discovered in a long-forgotten hiding place, an innocent English scholar is drawn into an increasingly dangerous game of deception. Through the 18th-century letters and journals of a printer's apprentice, the reader discovers the secret of the concerto, while Daniel Forster, in Venice to work for an ailing art collector, relives the mystery connected to the beautiful piece of music. The story set during the glory days of Vivaldi is more vivid, compelling and romantic than the contemporary one, as Daniel's a bit of a cold fish. And if the various elements don't quite add up to a satisfying whole, the intricate view of Venice with its palazzos and sewers, its concert halls and old Jewish ghetto is more than ample compensation.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2004