The Madman of Venice by Sophie Masson

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The Madman of Venice by Sophie Masson

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: This is a convoluted thriller set in long-ago Venice, but once we have got our heads round who is who there is a lot of drama, emotion and pace for our money. It's not the easiest of reads, but does earn a recommendation.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Hodder children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340883655

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It is 1602, and this is a tale of two families. On the one hand we have a family living in the Jewish ghetto in Venice. The teenage daughter has vanished, seemingly so she can hide while clearing her name of a witchcraft accusation, levelled at her from jealousy, bigotry, fear or just basic evil. On the other hand we have the group including Ned, a young man orphaned, but brought up as assistant to Matthew, a trader in London. He is going to Venice anyway, to sort out what he can do about all his goods getting plundered by pirates, before the request to solve the missing girl case reaches his door. And so Ned, Matthew, and Matthew's daughter, with whom Ned is painfully in love, all voyage to Italy.

What we find there alongside them is a much more complex tale than any brief summary could do justice to - there are lunatics in the streets, duels being arranged, alchemists, anti-Semitism, and much more. Even despite the title, merchants in Venice, token cross-dressing escapades, and Ned being a huge theatre fan constantly quoting those new works by Shakespeare, there is almost a more Dickensian feel to the intrigue to follow.

I feel one of the more important hurdles in such a book is one the average reader might struggle over, in that we get a host of people to consider. We are still learning of everyone's situation while messengers are bringing the news of the task to Matthew's door, there are people galore in Venice we have to consider, who might be on any side you care to mention, and I certainly stumbled over taking in the potential part in things everyone might be about to take.

But it is not long before we get a firm grip on the exotic Venetian locales. From the palaces to the little squares and beyond to the ghetto doorsteps we see what will be a fresh, novel setting for many of the target audience, portrayed very vividly in our minds. The action ramps up, parents get in the way, more and more dangerous characters are encountered, and throughout Ned's crush on Celia is only heightening the strongly and simply conveyed emotions of the main protagonists.

Added to all this is the prologue, which only makes things richer. It allowed me to guess pretty much what the drama was boiling down to, but in a way, as the protagonists know nothing of it it draws the amount of red herrings and false theories out to a great length.

Still, that length is very well sustained, and the emotion, drama and thankfully realistic threat to the young cast, all plough us through an adventure that is going to be much appreciated by many. It's a little unusual to have someone in their late teens as a hero for a book with an audience such as this has, but his slightly lower status, eagerness and passion draws us in.

It won't get five stars, with the stumbling it caused me to have initially, but the qualities of the book more than suffice by the end, and this is well worth considering.

We at the Bookbag must thank Hodder for our review copy.

If you enjoyed this, you should find much to savour in Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times by L Brittney.

Buy The Madman of Venice by Sophie Masson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Madman of Venice by Sophie Masson at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Madman of Venice by Sophie Masson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Madman of Venice by Sophie Masson at Amazon.com.

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