Nina Wachsman majored in book illustration at the Parsons School of Design, and studied under Maurice Sendak. She is currently the CEO of a digital marketing agency in New York City. She attends the Venice Art Biennale every two years, and is a descendant of a chief rabbi of the Ghetto, a contemporary of her characters. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Historical Novel Society, and has published stories in mystery and horror magazines and anthologies. “The Gallery of Beauties” is nominated for a 2022 Agatha for Best First Mystery , and its sequel, part of the Venice Beauties series, “The Courtesan’s Secret” will be released in Summer, 2023 by Level Best Books.
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Venice, 1612. A notorious courtesan and the scholarly daughter of the chief rabbi meet and form an unlikely friendship when their portraits are to be painted for a “Gallery of Beauties”. As one by one, the beautiful subjects of the paintings are poisoned, the two women must rely on their wits to survive, while confronting the ruthless men who seek to control them and Venice.
The Gallery of Beauties
A Venice Beauties Mystery
Book Excerpt or Article
HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY REVIEW
The Gallery of Beauties: A Venice Beauties Mystery
WRITTEN BY NINA WACHSMAN
REVIEW BY KISHORE KRISHNA
This debut mystery set in Renaissance Venice is a delight to read, especially for those who have visited the city. The Rialto, the Grand Canal, the Bridge of Sighs, the prison beneath the Doge’s palace, and the Jewish ghetto all have a starring role. The two heroines—Diana, a widow, and Belladonna, a courtesan—are both on journeys to discover what more they can be. While they are constrained by their circumstances, the author succeeds in conveying a note of optimism as they make their choices and face the consequences of their actions.
The driving force of the plot is a set of paintings of beautiful Venetian women commissioned by a visiting English noble. The creation of these paintings sets off a series of murders that are solved by the heroines. The complex maneuvering of the players and politics of the day is brought out in an understandable way without overwhelming the narrative. We can guess who the murderer is early in the book, but it’s the slow reveal of the causes which makes the mystery enjoyable.
The informative afterword discusses the historical background and points out some great reads. I have already downloaded the autobiography of Leon de Modena, a famous rabbi of the times; he is a scholar who also happens to have a gambling problem and, apart from being the author’s ancestor, is Diana’s father in the book. Recommended.
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