Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City by Christine Evelyn Volker (Review, Author Interview, & Giveaway!)

Book Details:

Book Title: Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City
Author: Christine Evelyn Volker
Category: Adult Fiction, 328 pages
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release date: August 2017
Tour dates: Sept 25 to Oct 6, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There are a few instances of bad language and a scene with partial nakedness but little concrete description.)

Book Description:

Struggling to forget a crumbling marriage, forty-year-old Anna Lucia Lottol comes to Venice to visit an old friend—but instead of finding solace, she is dragged into a police station and accused of murdering a money laundering count with whom she had a brief affair. In the days that follow, Anna, a US Treasury officer with brains and athleticism, fights to clear her name in a seductive city of watery illusions. But as she tries to pry clues from a cast of uncooperative characters who implausibly deny what she sees and hears, she begins to question whether they are hiding something…or she is losing touch with reality. Racing to unlock secrets, she succeeds instead in unleashing a powerful foe bent on destroying her. Will she save herself and vanquish her enemies, including her darkest fears?

A captivating tapestry of murder, betrayal, and family, Venetian Blood is the story of one woman’s brave quest for the truth—before it’s too late.

My Review:

Well written with rich descriptions, historical details and lyrical language, Christine Volker's debut mystery novel set in Venice is a worthy read.

Anna Lucia Lottol travels to Venice to visit a friend. Having recently decided to divorce her alcoholic husband and put an end to a childless marriage, she is in need of a break. Instead, she gets accused of murdering Count Sergio Corrin, with whom she had a brief affair a few months ago and later regretted when he began to blackmail her.

Anna, a smart US Treasury officer, wants to clear her name and find out who the real murderer is, so she embarks on an investigation with her journalist friend, Margo. Within a week and a half, after being in the company of Venice's high society, many of whom knew, worked with and despised the Count, Anna gets a picture of the money-laundering dirty business that's been going on in Venice and abroad. Her life is at stake, in more ways than one, and many past secrets come to light that affect Anna in surprising ways.

Volker has succeeded in creating shady characters with complex relationships in an atmospheric setting where Venice's lapping waters, hidden canals, narrow streets, bridges and foggy bays cast both a sensual, mysterious and creepy light to this Italian city of masks. As a reader, it was hard to guess who the murderer was since Volker painted every character with suspicion. The ending was surprising although I began to have an inkling of what was coming toward the end.

Anna's own fears, anxieties, broken marriage, longings and sad childhood are interspersed throughout the narrative. Her grandparents were Italian and her memories of them come to the fore now that Anna is on Italian soil. Anna is truly a complex character and her past mistakes and emotional traumas weave in with her more logical world of banking and numbers to create the serious portrait of a woman in midlife crisis. It was painful to read at times. However, the story ends on a hopeful note for Anna, even as the reader is left to wonder how she will cope with what is revealed to her.

If you like literary novels and books set in Italy, especially Venice, then you will enjoy this one. The complex portrait of a woman in search of herself, along with a murder mystery makes this a compelling and worthy read.

To read more reviews, please visit Christine Evelyn Volker's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

My Interview with Christine Evelyn Volker

LF: Welcome to Essentially Italian! We are so pleased to be featuring your debut novel.

CEV: Thank you.

LF: Can you describe your book in 20 words or less?

CEV: A woman’s brave quest to save herself in a city of illusions.

LF: What made you want to write a book set in Venice?

CEV: Back in the 1990s, I lived in Milan and visited Venice many times, falling in love with the city. Its intriguing history, the miracle of its existence as it perches precariously on the shores of the Adriatic, the character of its people, and its pure beauty all appealed to me. A masked city with dark, twisting alleyways and illusory reflections is ideal for a murder mystery.

LF: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? The easiest?

CEV: Portraying the protagonist’s complex nature, while enabling her to figure out the identity of the murderer. She’s brilliant, scientific, very rational, yet she has demons. I also wanted to make her likable. The easiest part was rendering Venice; I indulged in memories, managing to relive my time there, and enjoyed researching via many books. The city is so strong in the novel, it’s almost a character.

LF: What do you love about Italy? What do you dislike?

CEV: The warm, vivacious people, the pride Italian artisans take in their work, the exquisite vistas, the delicious food, and the beautiful language. I dislike the inefficiencies, and the feeling that fundamental issues in Italian society are not being resolved.

LF: I was impressed with the correctness of the Italian phrases in your novel. Are you fluent in Italian?

CEV: Thank you. I used to be! I’m pretty rusty now. For the book, I drafted what I wanted to say in Italian, but I had a native speaker offer corrections. I’d love to stay in Italy for a few months and brush up my language skills.

LF: If you could travel back in time, where would you go? Who would you see?

CEV: go back to the sixties. I’d try to figure out how society has frayed. We’ve degenerated from “all you need is love,” to “greed is good” and “screw you.” This is impacting not just people, but the entire earth. I’d love to spend time with Rachel Carson and other early environmental leaders.

LF: What is the funniest (or strangest, or scariest) incident that has ever happened to you?

CEV: Traveling through Italy when I was a junior in college, I had dinner with a young Italian man I had met on the train. Afterward, he took me on a motorcycle ride and we marveled at the Roman Coliseum, lit up like a galaxy of stars that night. Then we had an accident which broke my ankle, landing me in a hospital where no one could speak in English, Spanish or German to me (my languages). My bed was in the hallway of a hospital; after a day, I was transferred by ambulance to another, unknown one. Time passed, and I felt like I had been abducted: an example of how frightening it can be when you can’t communicate. I remember consulting my small, inadequate dictionary and ultimately demanding in Italian: “I want to speak with the American Embassy.” I laugh about this now; the care was quite good for those six days.

LF: Can you share with us some of your favorite authors and what you are currently reading?

CEV: Barbara Kingsolver, T.C. Boyle, Joseph Kanon. I’m currently re-reading Crime and Punishment. The poetry of Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca will be next, in preparation for our trip to Spain.

LF: Any future projects you would like to share with us?

CEV: My second international mystery, taking place in the rainforest of Peru and the city of Cuzco, is half-written. Settings are critical for me—I need to feel them. So we’ll return to Peru, and also go to Extremadura, the land of the conquistadors. The protagonist of my novel searches for the truth about her “disappeared” parents, confronts her own and her country’s past, and fights for its future. This novel will be quite broad in scope.

LF: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me!

Meet the Author:

Christine Evelyn Volker became intrigued by foreign cultures at an early age, which propelled her to study Spanish, German, and Italian. After pursuing an MLS and an MBA, she was drawn to international banking and became a senior vice president at a global financial institution. Her career brought her to Italy, where she immersed herself in the language and made frequent visits to Venice. A native New Yorker, she resides with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, where she heads a local library non-profit organization and writes about environmental sustainability. She is currently at work on her second international mystery, this one set in the rainforest of Peru.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fascinating and intriguing story. Love finding new Authors. Can't wait to read about Anna's journey.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com