The Thief of Venice

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jane Langton’s Homer Kelly mystery, The Thief of Venice, provides a second visit to Italy—the first coming in The Dante Game (1991), was to Florence—for Homer and his wife, Mary, where once again they find themselves embroiled in solving a murder.

Unlike the others in the series this mystery is primarily Mary’s. While Homer is pursuing his interests in the Biblioteca Marciana, Mary explores the city, walking the maze of medieval streets. Soon she is accompanied by an obliging, and extremely handsome, Italian physician, who unbeknownst to Mary, suspects she has discovered his cache of Jewish treasure abandoned by a family deported by the Germans during the war. Soon their rambles place Mary in grave danger. In the meantime the Kelly’s host, Sam Bell, who has fallen in love with the Procurator of St. Mark’s, Lucia Constanza, is madly searching for her after she is suspected of the murder of her husband and has fled into hiding. To top it off a high tide is threatening to inundate the city.

Amid all these complications Mary uncovers the story of the secreted treasure and the tragic story of the Venetian Jews during World War II. In the process she ties together the various threads of the plot, revealing the murderer, rescuing the war-time loot, and providing a little domestic aid to her host and his daughter.