Author: David Carlson

Publisher: Coffee Town Press, 2018,

ISBN: 978-1-60381-393-8

As I understand it, this is the third book in a series. This bothers some readers; it never bothers me if the author knows how to write a book in a series. It has to stand alone, even though it uses a few characters from previous books, and this one does. When this happens, I’m just as happy to read a series in reverse order (I started the Harry Potter series in the middle!).

This is a typical who-done-it following the age-old evolution mapped out by Dame Agatha. There’s some religion involved—even P. D. James throws that in—but that only makes it more interesting. This is not Christian lit. While one main character, Father Fortis, is a priest, another, Chris Worthy, is a Detroit cop and someone I’d consider agnostic. The third main character is Worthy’s daughter Allyson, who steals the show a bit and almost makes this a young adult mystery, except she’s a wee bit too old for that categorization.

Allyson is doing an internship with the Venice police. She’s supposed to work with English-speaking tourists who have been scammed because Venice is a tourist mecca, and the lowlifes come into the city to scam the tourists. But two suicides that are suspected to be homicides bring the estranged father and daughter together (another suicide/homicide case occurs later). The priest is working on yet another case: thieves are stealing relics from churches, the bones that justify the title. Any reader would bet on these cases being related, but how are they related?

All the story elements are well-done here—plot, characterization, setting, themes, and dialogue. Readers will find the characters fully developed and interesting, in spite of this being the third book in the series. And the mystery plot is intriguing with enough twists to keep the story moving along.

There are a few negatives, though. The incorrect use or lack of using the past perfect marred some beautiful stretches of back story. The copy editing is erratic: I found at least twenty errors in the first part of the book and only a sprinkle thereafter. Did two editors work on this book? I don’t blame the author for this; his publisher simply didn’t provide enough editorial help. Reading the book is a bit like reading a first draft.

One thing that really irritated me should be mentioned (no copy editor would fix this)—the baby talk in English from the Italians. Sure, if English isn’t one’s native language, there’s a problem with the corresponding dialogue. But it’s overdone here. The author should have used it a bit at the beginning to set the idea and then forget about it and use correct English. After a while, it became annoying.

But let’s forget about these slight slip-ups. There’s good storytelling to be found here. The book is a wee bit short for a novel, so I was sad when it ended, but that’s usually the case when I finish a good story. And this was a good story set in one of my favorite spots in Europe. I had a good time reading it.

(The publicist provided a trade paperback version to this reviewer. The book is also available as an ebook.)