This is a good yarn from a writer who is more familiar for several Russian themed novels such as Gorky Park and Red Square.
The Girl from Venice is set in the final days of the Second World War, with Italy on the cusp of defeat as the Americans slowly push north through the country. Some German troops are still hanging on, but are on the point of leaving. One of them is keen to remove all trace of some of the Jewish families who have remained behind in Italy.
Against this background we meet Cenzo, a Venetian fisherman who has been through his share of the war but has returned to his former occupation. He fishes the Venetian lagoon and dodges the German gunboats, doing his best to avoid the war. Essentially he finds his happiness in his solitary life aboard a small boat. Everything is thrown on its head when he pulls what he thinks is the body of a dead woman into that boat. It turns out that she isn’t as dead as he thought and he becomes first attached to and then enamoured with Giulia, a young woman who is determined to survive.
Having spent so much time trying not to get involved any more in a war that now seems remote, Cenzo finds himself pulled further and further into the conflict. He tries to help Giulia escape from the clutches of the Germans, but having trusted her fate to others he cannot be sure that she has made it to safety.
This is a good story and the characters are real and likeable. Cenzo has lost one of his brothers and is expected to marry the brother’s widow, so that the appearance of Giulia is distraction and diversion to his family. There is more to Cenzo than meets the eye, and we are pushed into expecting more and more from him.
We know that all Cenzo wants is to be left alone to fish the lagoon, but once he has been beguiled by the beautiful and headstrong Giulia, we know that there will be little hope of him being able to walk away. I like the array of characters that Martin Cruz Smith presents us with, and all their different motivations. Everyone has different agendas that are constantly in conflict, making this a satisfying read.