Beautiful Crime
by Bollen, Christopher

When Nicholas Brink leaves New York City to join Clay Guillory in Italy, he thinks he knows what he's getting into. His more experienced boyfriend has come into a small inheritance from an eccentric bohemian artist: the windfall consists of counterfeit heirlooms as well as a share in a decrepit Venetian palazzo. Clay hopes to use Nick's connection to an antiques dealer to unload the fake silver on a brash, unsuspecting American. Clay's smarts and Nick's charm are the keys to pulling off their scheme. Nick is no naïve pawn-he takes quickly to Venice's magic and beauty and embeds himself in the city's monied social orbit. Clay, meanwhile, finds in the Floating City a chance to settle old scores. After pulling off their initial con, however, Nick decides that more money can be made in Venice to set them up for life-even if their next move involves drastically greater risks. As it turns out, nothing in Venice is as it seems, and more than one life stands in the way of their happiness.

Twenty-five-year-old Nick Brink flies to Venice to rendezvous with his lover, 27-year-old Clay Guillory. No, they're not on vacation; instead, they plan to scam an American zillionaire named Richard West, who is an avid collector. The two young men have in their possession five silver objects that had belonged to a man with a celebrated last name, van der Haar, an ancient New York family with whom West is obsessed. Nick and Clay know that the collector is dead set on acquiring the silver objects as much for their provenance as for their collectibility. What West doesn't know is that the objects are forgeries, which Nick and Clay are passing off as originals. To their delight, the ruse works, and they find themselves 750,000 Euros richer. But is that enough? A compelling read with appealing characters, Bollen's novel is deftly paced and plotted with a beautifully realized setting that brings Venice to vivid life. The result is a treat for both crime-fiction fans and armchair travelers. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

André Aciman meets Patricia Highsmith in this satisfying exercise in literary crime. "No mythical city should be judged by its airport." So we read as 25-year-old Nicholas Brink, an Ohioan by way of New York, lands in Venice in a "Gobi of concrete." Nick is cut out for finer things, and he has come to Venice to take his part in a con game of his own devising. Bollen (The Destroyers, 2017, etc.) skillfully lets the details out bit by bit: We learn on one page that he has a boyfriend, Clay Guillory, on another that Clay is an Italian speaker who knows Venice well, on still another that Clay is an African American who, Nick hopes, will find the city of Othello less ethnically fraught than a white America that sees Clay "as a blur of black skin." The crime is delicious, a sale of counterfeit antiques to an American expat who has more money than he knows what to do with. As must happen in stories of this sort, mistakes are made, and Nick, who presents himself as the affable good guy, gets greedy—and, Clay protests, "Getting greedy is what will get us into tr ouble." Instead of selling a bunch of old silver and such, Nick wants to sell a whole palazzo that only partly belongs to Clay by virtue of a friendship with a now-deceased bohemian artist—only partly, the rest being tied up in a family squabble of epically Venetian proportions. Cons turn into countercons as a private investigator-cum-strongman turns up, and when that happens, Bollen's relatively gentle game of cat and mouse takes a bloody turn that's not entirely unexpected. Clay's warning to Nick turns out to be exactly right, as Nick sheds any vestigial boyishness in the course of a would-be swindle that goes exactly wrong. Fans of crime fiction will delight in this marriage of knowing aestheticism and old-fashioned mayhem. Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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