Jenny Kidd – Laury A. Egan (Vagabondage Press)

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Buy it direct from Vagabondage Press

I love getting presents through the mail, especially
unexpected books. Some books I ask for, some are pressed upon me by eager
authors, but others fall into my lap through the courtesy of the USPS, media
mail. Not all are good. Some are wretched. But some are little gems, like Laury
A. Egan’s atmospheric Jenny Kidd.

A distant relative of the pirate, Jenny Kidd is a young
woman spending autumn in Venice, escaping from her overbearing father as she
works on her portfolio of paintings. While at the Guggenheim Collection
studying Kandinsky, she meets Randi, an expat Brit who invites her to a masked
ball at the Palazzo Barbon. Jenny is entranced by the beautiful Caterina
Barbon. Caterina and her brother Sebastiano promise to aid her in her career.
However, their motives are less than pure.

A top-notch thriller that takes on art forgery, murder and
incest, Jenny Kidd spins its web as languidly as an afternoon by the
canals. Egan’s descriptions of the food, the art, and the general atmosphere
are as purposeful as they are evocative. Her prose is full-bodied and elegant,
and she makes prosecco and prosciutto as sumptuous as the work of Titian and
Tintoretto.

Jenny herself is also well-rounded—a woman seeking independence,
anxious to make her own way in the world yet still dependent on her parents for
the funds to do so. Venice represents freedom for her, which is why the
robbery, the kidnapping and her eventual imprisonment within the walls of the
palazzo seem so brutally unjust in those surroundings. And you couldn’t ask for
more worldly, dangerous, perverse, and utterly charming villains than Caterina
and Sebastiano.

As delicious as Egan’s writing is when it comes to
describing masked balls, four-course lunches, and miniatures painted in
pastels, she also knows how to propel a mean action scene. The last twenty
pages or so are a breathless rush of dark passageways, tense interrogations,
and perfectly executed gore that leave you gasping and satisfied.

And that’s how I felt when I finished the book—satisfied.
Just as you would be after a fine meal or an afternoon excursion with good
friends. All the ends were tied up with stylish bows, and I really regretted
leaving Venice and Jenny Kidd behind.

But I can hardly wait to see where the mail will take me
next.

 ©, 2012, Jerry Wheeler

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