Book Review: The Venice Atonement by Merryn Allingham

Book Review: The Venice Atonement by Merry Allingham

Title: The Venice Atonement

Author: Merryn Allingham

Publisher: Canelo

Publication date: June 27, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Historical Mystery

Summary: Following her sudden marriage to the much older art professor Leo Tremayne in 1955, Nancy finds herself exploring Venice, with nothing else to do until she witnesses a woman she’d met once before tumble from a balcony at the opera. Ruled a suicide, Nancy isn’t so sure. With nothing else to do and wanting to find her own place in the world and her marriage, she jumps headlong into investigating the mysterious death, convinced it’s a murder. Often heedless of the danger she could find herself in, she’s quickly grateful for the begrudgingly given help from her husband’s aloof (to her) assistant. As their departure date from Venice rushes towards them, Nancy hurries to solve her mystery.

Embedded in this book is a mystery and the struggles of a married woman in the 1950s. The two played off of each other brilliantly and, while I really liked the ending, it left me wanting more of Nancy and wanting to know about her future and if she ever truly finds her feet as a married woman. I loved the fact that Nancy’s soul searching was a key part of her desire to solve the mysterious death of someone she’d spoken to once.

In the 1950s, women who married well were not expected to work, nor did their husbands tend to want them to work. This is the kind of marriage Nancy has found herself in. Her husband is a prominent and important man in the art world, and he expects Nancy to act accordingly. But Nancy came from a very different world, one where she had a job that gave her the means to take care of herself. Finding herself suddenly married to a man who doesn’t want her to work leaves her struggling to comprehend her new life, which drives her desire to solve the mystery of Marta Moretto’s death.

The mystery itself isn’t too twisty, but did have some delightful turns I wasn’t expecting. It turned out to be a much more complicated web with unlikely players than I initially thought it would be. Even though I found the first half of the book to be a tad slow, it did set up the rest of the book brilliantly and I loved that Nancy connected the dots as quickly as I did. The second half was when the mystery really started to warm up and a dangerous air quickly set it. While it was easy to put aside the book after a chapter or two in the beginning, I quickly found the opposite to be true once I hit the halfway mark. The mystery was well-done, very well-handled, and overall extremely satisfactory.

What I most enjoyed was the setting. Not only does the city of Venice present romance and intrigue, it proves to be the perfect backdrop for the mystery, what with it’s long canals of water, the danger of flooding, the isolated islands, and the fog that comes with being by the sea. The city and the mystery worked perfectly together. But I also loved that Allingham actually talked about the city and real places in Venice rather than simply use it as a backdrop, a setting for the sake of having a setting. I’ve only been once, but this book really makes me want to go back and re-experience the city.

I loved the characters and how well-developed and complex they were. Nancy was both strong and fragile. She was quick to make decisions and see them through, but her past traumas also gave her an air of fragility that was well-used in the story but felt a little undeveloped. Most of the time, it felt like her past was there to be used as a tool and not to really develop Nancy’s character. But I loved Archie, Nancy’s husband’s assistant. He was often cold to Nancy, but went out of his way to help her as she worked to solve the mystery. He was always there for her even though he exuded a strong dislike for her. Their relationship was complex and full of ups and downs, mostly professional but touching on personal once in a while.

Overall, this was a delightful mystery, full of turns that twisted without being too mind boggling. I loved that my mind wasn’t completely confused by the end, but, instead, felt like the mystery had been fully resolved, as unexpected as some of the elements were. The characters and their interactions moved the story along rather nicely and I felt almost entirely satisfied by the last page. I wouldn’t mind knowing what’s next in store for Nancy, Archie, and Leo.

How many cups of tea will you need?

5 cups, most definitely, especially during the second half.

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Thank you so much to Netgalley and Canelo for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Enjoy more of my book reviews by stopping off at the Bookshelf.

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