Girl From Venice
Martin Cruz Smith
Simon & Schuster
I’ve said it before–I’m a reading snob. No chick lit. No crime. No mysteries. Except when I read Lawyer For the Dog, Girl on the Train, or a Flavia De Luce mystery. And it goes without saying I’m not enticed by bestsellers–but then a title will make me so darn curious I must read it, like Sycamore Row did. So of course I’d never read “the master of the international thriller” Martin Cruz Smith, he of Gorky Park fame. Right?
Wrong. I guess I’m nothing if not inconsistent!
The time: World War II; the place: Venice. A humble fisherman, Cenzo, drags in the dead body of a young woman, the same night his boat is intercepted by a German gunboat. Except the mysterious girl Guilia is not so dead after all–turns out she’s a Jew running from the Nazis. Her life has been far-removed from Innocenzo Vianell0’s. While he’s been casting nets from his boat Fatima, she’s been lounging in a cabana on the Lido. Cenzo spends his evenings drinking grappa and playing cards with friends, while she’s dined at the Excelsior Hotel and played the casinos. Their lives were worlds apart.
And yet, Cenzo, who up until this point has been adamant about steering clear of all things political–a hard thing to do in the middle of a world war–is drawn to help the beautiful young woman he rescues. For a time he hides her in plain sight, teaching her to fish, and eventually finds a way to smuggle her to safety. When he doesn’t get word from her, Cenzo begins to wonder if she is in danger.
Complicating matters is the arrival of his brother Giorgio Vianello, a famous Italian movie star who makes propaganda films for Mussolini. Giorgio might very well be working with the Germans … or could he be working for the partisans? There’s bad blood between the brothers and Giorgio starts sniffing into Cenzo’s business, sensing there’s something not right with his story about the “young boy” he took on as crew.
The story has more than a few chase scenes, a stolen airplane, gold ingots, and movie stars. Throw in a love story and a family secret, and you’ve got a fast-paced story that has made-for-movie written all over it. The Girl From Venice is a war-novel-love-story-family-drama type of read that will appeal to many. It did me.