Betrayal in Venice

Rosalea Ryan | Bendigo Weekly | 02-Feb-2017

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The Girl from Venice, Martin Cruz Smith, Simon & Schuster, $32.99
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Once part of a fishing dynasty, Innocenzo now sails alone, one brother dead, drowned when strafed in an Allied air raid, the other dead to him as a result of having enticed Cenzo’s wife into an affair that ultimately cost the young woman her life.

To their mother, however, Cenzo is the least successful of the sons: a simple fisherman who refuses to do his patriotic war duty by joining Benito Mussolini’s Sons of the She-Wolf and to date has failed the family by finding excuses to delay marrying his widowed sister-in-law.

It doesn’t help his situation that the adulterous surviving brother, Giorgio, is a famous screen actor and airforce hero known as the face and voice of the Fascist party.

Cenzo’s life is further complicated when during a moonlit outing from his home in Pellestrina, a tiny breakwater community on the lagoon bordering Venice, he reels in more than merely fish.

Manoeuvring silently through the marshes he is shocked to discover what he mistakes at first for a corpse, floating pale and sodden alongside his boat. In fact, the teenaged girl, Giulia, is very much alive – for the time-being, at least.

The lone escapee from a German attack on a community of Jews, Giulia is being stalked by a warship.

Her only hope of escaping lies with Cenzo.

With the end of World War II imminent and American forces likely to reach them within a matter of days, can he smuggle her to safety?

The pair’s cat-and-mouse travels take them from Pellestrina to Venice, then Salo, Mussolini’s seat of power and one of the final strongholds of the Italian military.

As Cenzo is forced to mingle with Salo’s glamorous diplomats and socialites, Giorgio’s treachery resurfaces.

Can the siblings set aside their rivalry for the sake of survival, or will the long-festering hatred lead to more tragedy?

– Rosalea Ryan

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