SCHERZO by Jim Williams

scherzo  What a fun, fun read.  There is a murder mystery, set in Venice of the 1700’s.  The murdered man holds a piece of paper in his hand, a poem of sorts that is definitely a code.

The story is told in the first person voice of a young male castrato, altered by the clergy of the Catholic Church in Rome in order to preserve his divine singing voice.   But really, nothing better describes this book than the official description:

Two unusual detectives. Ludovico – a young man who has had his testicles cut off for the sake of opera. And Monsieur Arouet – a fraudster, or just possibly the philosopher Voltaire.

The setting. Carnival time in mid-18th century Venice, a city of winter mists, and the season of masquerade and decadence, in  a Venetian underworld of pimps, harlots, gamblers, forgers and charlatans.

A mysterious coterie of aristocrats, Jesuits, Freemasons and magicians.

The murder: that of the nobleman, Sgr Alessandro Molin, found swinging from a bridge with his innards hanging out and a message in code from his killer.

Scherzo was nominated for the Booker Prize.  What a romp, and a colorful cast of characters that inhabit the story.  Scherzo means joke in Italian, and the book is filled with secrecy, from the general atmosphere of Carnival where everyone goes around in masks, to various disguises, to so many things not being what they seem — or are they?

Great read from an author who likes fakes, forgeries, frauds and mysteries, as can be evidenced by his other works.

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