The Four Horsemen

Written by Gregory Dowling
Review by Charlotte Wightwick

The Four Horsemen is the second in a series of books following the adventures of Alvise Marango, an 18th-century Venetian tourist guide and spy, although it stands well as a novel on its own. Alvise works by day as a tourist guide for wealthy young English noblemen on the Grand Tour. But he is also a reluctant spy for the notoriously secretive and powerful Venetian state. When he is caught up in a tavern brawl, the leader of the secret service is unimpressed and forces him to take on an undercover investigation into the death of another agent. This leads him to a mysterious group, the Four Horsemen, and a spate of attacks against the Turkish inhabitants of the city.

Dowling depicts Venice beautifully, capturing both the beauty and the squalor of the city, the surrounding lagoon and islands. Alvise is an engaging protagonist: charming, self-deprecating and accident-prone. The secondary characters are also well-drawn on the whole, although both Alvise’s sinister boss Missier Grande and the mysterious Greek bandit Komnenos have a touch of the pantomime villain about them, complete with swirling cloaks. Overall however, The Four Horsemen is a pacey, enjoyable thriller with an excellent sense of location, entertaining characters and a satisfying twist. Great fun to read.