Fresh from the events of A Crimson Warning, Lady Emily and her husband, the dashing Colin Hargreaves, travel to Venice to assist Emily’s nemesis, Emma, in the hunt for the killer of Conte Barozzi, her father-in-law. A selfish, rather moody girl, Emma married handsome Paolo Barozzi and has been living in Venice for about three years. Although Paolo is due to inherit the Conte’s declining estate, he has abruptly disappeared after his father’s murder, fleeing without so much as a word to his much-adored wife.
More than a slice of life from the past, Death in the Floating City is a beautifully written suspense story and genuine page-turner that promises both salvation and a fair amount of danger for Emily and Colin. Nothing short of murder could have induced Emily to renew her acquaintance with Emma: “she despised me and I returned to feeling.” But Emily and Colin are considered the perfect fit for assisting Emma in her cause, especially with Colin’s reputation for
cracking any investigation with his trademark discretion, and Emily proving her own mettle after successfully apprehending six notorious murderers.
This is a period of decline for the great families of Venice, particularly the Barozzi family with their expensively run house and limited fortune. While Emma is positive that Paolo is innocent, Emily shudders, suddenly cold as if in oppressive evil were closing around her. Emma’s reactions to her father-in-law’s death and her husband’s disappearance
are increasingly difficult to gauge as Emily finds herself smothered in Emma’s cocoon of lies, misdirection, and things that go bump in the night.
Befriending the elegant Donata Caravello to help her solve the puzzle of the ring found on the Conte’s body and a series of rare illuminated manuscripts handed down in the family from the 15th century that Paolo took with him when he left, Emily attempts to set the record straight while rational Colin and kindly Brother Giovanni stand by to help sort out fact from fiction. As Emily constructs a full picture of the life of Besina Barozzi in order to discover who killed the Conte and make it safe for Paolo to return to his wife, Colin is sure that there is some sort of information hidden away that could help the Barozzi family. Between the books and the ring, Emily is convinced
that this murder is as rooted in the past as it is in the present. The ring, especially, signifies something to do with the family finances and the reasons why the Barozzis were forced to sell off so many of their valuable possessions.
Rather than spook us with bloodcurdling events acted out in her glamorous Venetian setting, Alexander spins her spider's web of intrigue from the vantage point of 1489 and the love story between
family ancestor Besina Barozzi and her one true love, Nicolo Vendelino, son of a rival feuding family. In the mist of a blood feud between the Vendelinos and Barozzis, there
are the dramas of an arranged marriage and abuse, but from the moment that Nicolo
swears to love Besina for eternity, her heart is pledged to be forever his.
Chronicling her story in breezy, intimate tones, Alexander’s first-person narration takes us in like an old friend. Her major themes: the yearning and rejection of love expounded by Emily herself, who is captivated by the beauty she sees around her. Venice is
magical, almost unreal, but Emily can still see the decay beneath the surface as the ominous figure of a plague doctor leaves a threatening note written in what looks to be like medieval calligraphy.
In this tale of lost secrets, a girl is forced to marry the one she does not love even as the man she does love continues to write to her long after her death. As the pages turn, Venice’s changing light reflects the author’s love of the city.
The ease with which she depicts her exotic locale is also reflected in the youthful exuberances of Emily and Colin, who by novel's end are faced with some surprising new challenges.