PAINTED VEIL
Beverle Graves Myers

 


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The Second Baroque Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press, 2005
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Mystery. Venice, 1734

Success was too easy for opera singer Tito Amato. He has been the fêted star of Venice theater for three years, too busy being fawned upon to keep up with his vocal practice. When he is suddenly demoted in favor of Francesco Florio, an international prodigy, he knows he deserves it.

As was the custom in Italy at the time, Tito and Florio were both castrated in youth to preserve their beautiful singing voices. Tito has come to terms with it. Florio has become neurotic, spoiled, and insulting to everyone in the company. But Tito, suddenly second best, knows he must be compliant or risk losing his job. When Director Torani asks Tito to find their missing set designer, Luca, he has no choice but to agree.

Lashed by a long, stormy spring, Venice is falling victim to a wave of anti-Semetic mob hysteria. Its wealthy men are being cheated out of huge sums of money by a masked cult leader. Tito's determined hunt for Luca’s enemies endangers his life, and worse, his singing voice.

PAINTED VEIL is studded with lovable characters, from Tito's sister, whom we met in INTERRUPTED ARIA, to a Jewish costume maker, to an English expatriate with a knack for drawing. Because we already know Tito, his personality is developed in a different manner than it was in INTERRUPTED ARIA. New readers become acquainted with Tito as we are introduced to the other characters and see Tito interacting with them. Ultimately, we feel as if we can reach out and touch Tito and all his dear friends, basking in their climate of friendship and caring.

The Venice of author Beverle Graves Myers is vividly and lovingly created, especially the theater scenes. After reading PAINTED VEIL, anyone planning to go to Venice will want to spend the extra euro to travel back in time to the Baroque Era. Judging by Myers’ “guidebook,” the untrustworthy nobility are best avoided, but a few months in one of the small, unassuming, lower middle class squares with their neighborly communities would refresh the spirit.

Myers interweaves eloquent messages about courage, honor, and especially, forgiveness. Both of Tito’s books contain moments so deeply moving that they flavor the entire series.

If, when you are reading a mystery, you care about the puzzle above all, you will find points to cavil at in PAINTED VEIL. One: The chance that Tito would come into possession of a crucial written clue in the way he does is slim to none. Two: The cult leader has far too much command over himself to say anything incriminating, and this casts doubt over the climactic scene.

Few murder mysteries are perfect where clues are concerned. Personally, I care more about the characters than the puzzle of a mystery, and I will hasten to get hold of the sequel, CRUEL MUSIC, when it comes out in September.

April 2006

 

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