World War II is considered by many to be our last good war, as we know without doubt who the good guys and bad guys were. Or do we? Joseph Kanon has spent his career exploring the gray areas between “good” and “bad.” In his new historical suspense novel, Adam Miller, a former US Army war crimes investigator, has come to Venice in 1946 to visit his socialite mother and try to forget the horrors he witnessed in Germany. Nothing has changed in Venice, a city still as serene as the waters of her canals. But when Adam falls in love with Claudia, a Jewish woman scarred by her wartime experiences, he finds the dream of Venice is a façade. There is more than enough guilt to go around. Everyone has been compromised by the Occupation: the local police, the hospital staff, even the international set drinking at Harry’s. Then an impulsive murder could tear Adam from everyone he holds dear.
Through Adam’s relationship with his mother, Kanon accurately portrays the disconnection between the Bright Young Things of the 1920s and ‘30s and their children who went to war. Through his meticulous research, Venice herself becomes a character—flirtatious behind a Carnivale mask, hiding both physical decay and the equivocal morals of people who did what they had to survive. One leaves this book with a deeper understanding of the Nazis’ most pervasive and insidious effect—the ugly little ways each survivor was irretrievably corrupted.