October 2012, Historical Mystery (Renaissance/Victorian Venice)
Minotaur Books, $24.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312661762 Part of a series
I’ve been a fan of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series since Emily’s first appearance in And Only to Deceive. Emily has gone through a lot of changes and solved many mysteries since then. The latest entry finds Lady Emily and her husband Colin in Venice to investigate a recent murder. However, classical scholar Emily is soon completely caught up in a Renaissance-era mystery. The author brings both the Victorian-era Venice of Lady Emily and the Renaissance Venice to life. Death in the Floating City is the seventh in the Lady Emily series and one of my favorites.
Lady Emily and Colin are in Venice to solve a murder for Emily’s long-time enemy Emma Barozzi. Lady Emily and Emma have despised each other since they were six years old and Emma destroyed one of Emily’s precious dolls and lied and said that Emily had done so. As the two grew older Emma continued to torment Emily, and even make plays for men who were interested in Emily. The only reason the active animosity ended was that Emma eloped with an Italian count and moved to Venice. Despite their differences, when Emma’s father-in-law is murdered and her husband disappears immediately after, Emma contacts Emily and Colin for assistance and the two travel to Venice. While this may sound odd, Colin is an agent of the Crown with a reputation of being able to solve any investigation.
Lady Emily and Colin quickly discover that Emma’s father-in-law, the senior Barozzi, was clutching a ring in his hand when found, inscribed with the words “Love conquers all.” As Colin investigates such mundane details as the finances of the Barozzi family, Emily becomes caught up in the story of the ring.
Each chapter begins with a portion of a parallel story set in Renaissance Venice in 1489 featuring Besina Barozzi and Nicolo Vendelin, whose families were involved in a longtime feud, but fell in love at first sight at a party. I have problems with love-at-first-sight stories, but in the Renaissance setting, this completely worked.
In addition to two intriguing mysteries, the author excels in bringing settings to life. As Emily travels through canals, dark alleys, and sparkling homes, Venice becomes real, almost a character in the book. I could see what Emily was seeing, feel what she was feeling.
I adore both Emily and Colin. Emily is a strong, intelligent woman, who uses her brains and research skills to solve a centuries-old mystery. And Colin? Gorgeous, intelligent, and completely in love with Emily. While this is a mystery, over the course of the series so far Emily and Colin meet, fall in love, and eventually marry. Two years after their marriage, they’re still much in love. In the opening pages, Emily thinks of Colin, “We’d been married just over two years, and Colin Hargreaves still took my breath away every time I looked at his preternaturally handsome face.” For good parts of this book Emily and Colin are apart as they each pursue their separate investigations. But there’s never any doubt that they’re completely in love.
I don’t reread a lot of mysteries, but I will probably reread at least parts of this again. The Victorian-era mystery was rather complicated, and I would like to see if early passages foreshadow any of what happened. And the ending? Just lovely.
I haven’t disliked any of the books in the series, but this definitely stands as one of my favorites along with the first (And Only to Deceive) and the third (A Fatal Waltz). While I love this book, I would strongly suggest that new readers start back at the beginning to see the growth of Emily, and her relationship with Colin, over time. As for me, I can hardly wait for the next Lady Emily mystery to come out next fall.
-- LinnieGayl Kimmel
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