Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Abomination: Book One in the Carnivia Trilogy

The Abomination: Book One in the Carnivia Trilogy
by Jonathan Holt
Published by Harper
448 pages
Genre: fiction; mystery
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
5 / 5

Jonathan Holt, where have you been all my life? And when are you going to write another book?

First, I suppose, we should discuss your debut novel. I really enjoyed it, every intricate, detailed page. I love the characters you created, although I will tell you that I have some - shall I say - questions pertaining to Aldo Piola. I'm sure you understand what they are.

But I've gotten ahead of myself.

I like the setting you chose. Venice. So rich with possibility, so ripe for crime, secrecy, and passion, right? You don't just have Venice around, you use Venice. She is as much a character as Kat, Holly, or Daniele. Or Aldo ... You also educate us a little about the city. I found it interesting that you so rarely allude to gondolas or the canals; instead, you focus on the water as a source - or conduit - of death and crime. The canals that are so breathlessly romanticized in film and literature are here stripped of that sheen and examined with a dispassionate eye.

Your story is gripping, fast-paced, entertaining, and even educational. I like how it starts off with a fisherman fearing for his life, then moves into a murder investigation of a woman dressed as a priest, and then morphs into an investigation into a prostitution ring filtering from Croatia into Italy. Against these big issues, though, you have small, personal stories. Kat and Aldo's pursuit of truth in the face of corruption. Holly's fears of being branded a whistle blower combating with her inability to ignore crimes potentially committed by her own country. And Daniele. I liked him so much. His website, Carnivia, is a fascinating creation, especially given his background of having been kidnapped as a young child and his need to solve puzzles. I like how Carnivia, with its absolute secrecy, is the piece that brings Kat, Holly, and Daniele together. There is a murder to be solved, yes, but there are other puzzles to be solved. What role does the Mafia play? What about the American government?

In fact, I'm glad this is the first of a series, because I'm not ready to say good-bye to Daniele. I like how Holly saw through him and accurately pinpointed his motivation for creating Carnivia. It's little personal details like that that make this such a superb novel. Or Kat's reaction to seeing what anonymous people say about her online. I like how she questions it based not on a "this is how it's done in Italy" position but rather "this is how it shouldn't be done to women." I like how she and Holly stood up for themselves, each in her own way.

For a novel packed with so many characters and so much detail and action, you might assume it would feel unwieldy. It should be difficult to know the characters as well as we do. But neither is the case. The story is far more straightforward than it appears, largely because you stick to the principal that we cannot stop future crimes until we account for those from the past. You do an excellent job of presenting fully realized characters. The only stereotype or flat character is Avvocato Morcello, right down to his greasy hair.

I hope people read this book, I truly do. It's an excellent mystery, fast-paced and loaded with action and characters we enjoy.

Now, about the next installment in the trilogy. When can we expect that?

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