I read a review of this book by Jenny of Reading the End in which she said that this book was a good one to pick up when you’ve woken up and can’t get back to sleep. Well, I picked it up at the end of a long road trip when our car broke down and we had to spend the night at a Super 8 in Nowhereville, Florida, and I can corroborate that. This book is amusing, entertaining, and very British, and it’s the perfect combination of friendly and intriguing to keep your mind off any troubles you might be experiencing. In this mystery by Sarah Caudwell, a young British barrister named Julia decides to go on an Art Lovers’ trip to Venice, where she is determined to make a romantic conquest of the beautiful Ned. She is a hapless, accident-prone woman with little common sense, and her barrister friends back in England are very amused by her letters home. That is, until they get some bad news: Julia is being held in Venice by the police and is being charged with the murder of the beautiful Ned.
Despite the fact that Julia is the focus of the story, we never “meet” her in person. We hear about her from the other characters, we get to read her letters to the group, and we hear phone calls from others who are with Julia in Venice, but the story is narrated by Professor Tamar, and he (or she?) keeps the story firmly rooted in England. It’s humorous, surprising, and very British. I enjoyed it a great deal. Again, although this is technically a murder mystery, it’s sure not Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (a book that gave me sleepless nights for a week when I read it in high school). Most of the book is taken up with comradely bickering between the other barristers and the professor, who do their own detective work in England as the other tourists return home, and with remarks on Julia’s utter lack of common sense, despite her extensive knowledge. There are red herrings, miscommunication, and nearly-bungled clue-gathering missions. This book is just a lot of fun.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good