Venice in 1613 can be a brutal place. Captain Lorenzo Contarini witnesses a prime example when he sees a newborn infant deliberately tossed into a canal to drown. The baby’s mother soon joins it in death when she hangs herself.
The son of a nobleman, Captain Contarini is no novice to Venetian politics. He recognizes the Doge’s flag on one of the boats which took the mother and child to their doom. The other boat belongs to the convent overseen by his aunt, the Abbess of San Zaccaria. The unfortunate mother was Contarini’s niece. Contarini knows what he risks, but reports what he witnessed. When his fiancée is mutilated during the ghastly murder of a popular artist, is it actually a warning that Captain Contarini should hold his tongue? Instead, Contarini’s testimony strains familial, religious, and political loyalties across Venice.
Thus begins Thirst, by Mary Donnarumma Sharnick. It is catalogued as historical fiction, romance, and mystery. Of the three categories, historical mystery is the best fit. However, this was not clear on the cover’s description, so as the early part of Thirst unfolded, I was baffled by leaps between seemingly unrelated persons and occurrences. Soon I realized that an intricate puzzle was being presented to me, by no less than the Doge’s Inquisition.
Sharnick is clearly familiar with the ancient city and paints a sensuous picture of La Serenissima and her colorful inhabitants. Readers who enjoy figuring out not only whodunit, but why, will love Thirst.