Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review of "Venice Noir" [47]

Venice Noir
edited by Maxim Jakubowski
Akashic Books, ISBN 9781617750731
May 29, 2012, 288 pages

For many, including myself, Venice is a magical city, full of endless water vistas, amazing historic buildings and beautiful light. But the 14 stories in this collection present a vision of Venice that few visitors would think of, ranging from the disturbing to the really creepy. Noir indeed.

From the publisher description...

"VENICE IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S most famous cities and an obligatory tourist destination. Now, for the first time, we look beyond the teeming canals and the crumbling palazzos to see the darkness at the heart of La Serenissima, the reality behind the postcards, and a city historically associated with both commerce and death comes to life in tales of treachery, crime, and lost souls, inhabited by locals and visitors alike."

They are a mixed bag of stories, ranging from a few really excellent one, to a majority of quite good ones to on or two that left me shaking my head. I am a fan of short stories and at their best, which a few of these were, a clever writer can tell a very complete, very satisfying story in a small number of pages. I think there is something very enjoyable about that.

One of my favorite was The Comedy is Over by Francesco Ferrcin, about a young woman who had a very bad, very violent experience that caused her to undergo a spectacular change in her life. While I can not approve of what she did, there is something very understandable, even darkly admirable about it. Another favorite was the next story in the book, Commissario Clelia Vinci, by Barbara Baraldi, a rather bleak tale about revenge and despair, with a clever if dark twist at the end. And finally I will mention Lido Winter by Maxim Jakubowshi, who also edited the book, about a middle aged man on a vaporetto, the water buses, on his way to the island of Lido, admiring a young woman, a tourist who boards at San Marco. Oh, if he only knew who she was, would he be so friendly?

Yes, there were one or two that were much less successful for me, one with just a few too many rats, one that may make visitors think twice about where they stay. But all in all, it was a very good mix, underlining many of humanity's darker qualities. Lust, greed, fear, love that turns to hatred, and yes, a few lost souls are all here, set against a Venice that is often dark and decaying and not a little scary.

As you sail along the Grand Canal, you are stuck by Venice's timeless beauty, but do we ever know what is behind the beautiful, crumbling facades of those grand palazzos? Just step around a corner, into the maze of backstreets, endless small canals and countless bridges and you are in quite another world, the world of Venice Noir.

My thanks to the publisher and Library Thing Early Reviewers for providing a copy for review. 


  1. Oh rats! {{shudder}} Not for me!

  2. Short story collections are great when they have a common theme. This sounds great since I've always dreamed of seeing Venice - not the rat part, though. :)

    1. No, I think we could all skip the rat part...


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