Monday, 1 August 2011
"The Cemetery of Secrets," by David Hewson
Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
This is another in my series of trying to read books set in Venice. Once again, as with "The Glassblower of Murano," I read this with my trusty Venice guidebook at my side to help visualise the places mentioned.
"The Cemetery of Secrets" has a dual timeline, as a story unfolds in 1733 that has repercussions and parallels in the present day. In the present day, academic Daniel Forster travels to Venice on the invitation of Signor Scacchi, an old man who is a descendent of a printing dynasty in the city. Daniel is ostensibly invited to investigate the library of the family to look for previously undiscovered treasures, but he becomes embroiled in a mystery involving a murder that happened 10 years ago, an antique violin and an anonymous concerto. The storyline of the 1700s reveals the provenance of the violin and concerto, set against the backdrop of the autocratic rule of the venetian Doges.
I did find this book a little bit hard to get into at first, primarily due to the 1733 storyline. Initially some aspects of the language and idiom seemed rather modern and anachronistic to me, but I came to terms with this and even came to feel that this was probably the right decision on the part of the author. This is, after all, a mystery. I have a translation of Casanova's "The Story of my Life," written in the late 1700s, which I have, to my shame, not progressed far in reading because I found the language rather hard-going. I will master it at some point, but I haven't yet managed it. A mystery should have pace, and if David Hewson had tried to emulate this language it would inevitably have slowed down the story and the reading experience. If the reader can accept by suspension of disbelief that the text is written in English, then why not suspend this further and accept a translation through time as well as language?
This book did take me a while to read, as I kept getting distracted by other books. But, ultimately, I enjoyed reading it. The mystery was entertaining - although, even after accepting the idiom of the storyline in the 1700s, I found that I came to care more for the characters of Daniel and Laura (the housekeeper for the Scacchi family) in the modern day storyline - and David Hewson has done a good job of evoking the sights, sounds and smells of Venice. David Hewson is on Twitter and has mentioned that he is working on another book set in Venice. I look forward to reading this when it is published.