At the end of every year I select my 10 best books I’ve read during that year irrespective of publication date and these are the books that are allowed to stay on my shelves whilst the rest end up being donated to the library, to charity shops or given away to friends. I read quite a lot of adventure genre books but very few end up ever making it into my Top 10 list. In fact, since the arrival of Dan Brown who reactivated this genre for me there has just been his “Da Vinci Code” and “Lost Symbol” and Steve Berry’s “Romanov Prophecy” which have made the cut.
It could be all change this year as Jon Trace has written a book good enough to make the list. He’s achieved this with a convincing blend of out and out adventure and a police procedural with a touch of horror and plenty of thrills. This makes the book feel original in a genre which can become a tad predictable. There’s no cartoon baddies, the Nazis are not involved and neither the Templars nor the Masons have an effect on the outcomes. In style it reminded me of Adam Blake’s “Dead Sea Deception” from 2011 as he also seemed to be trying something very different with a blend of genres, but this is better.
One of the joys of “The Venice Conspiracy” is that we are not overladen with parallel narratives. The main plot features ex Priest Tom Shaman who gives up the Church when his intervention to help a rape victim on the streets of Compton, LA, leads to two men being killed. He goes to Venice on the strength of a Canaletto painting and for reasons that are unclear to me becomes a consultant in a murder case after he discovers a body in the canal.
Alongside this we have a tale of the Etruscans from 666BC where events gently mirror the present day narrative. When that thread reaches its natural end we are introduced to a monk, Tommasso, in Eighteenth Century Venice who has experiences similar to Shaman. This is all building up to an execution in San Quentin Prison and all three narratives are linked by an ancient artefact produced by an Etruscan woman which is said to depict the Gates Of Hell. Chapters are short and Trace is very good with pace (I’m not sure if that rhyme is intentional!). We also get to experience Tom adapting to life outside the Church as situations occur which threaten his trust in humans and risks undermining the Italian Police investigation. I was with this all the way (with the slight reservation of how the ex-Priest got himself into the Consultant role). It builds up well and there’s enough twists and turns to appeal to the crime writing fan.
The Venice Conspiracy was published by Sphere in 2010.