The Eye Stone might be a fairly standard noir were it not for its setting: 12th-century Venice. Roberto Tiraboschi, an Italian screenwriter, playwright and novelist, has incorporated many traditional elements from the genre into his first novel published in English. It features a mysterious serial killer who makes his victims into gruesome trophies, a conspiracy involving an ancient text and an ethically loose businessman attempting to manipulate the situation to his benefit. However, if the novel is formulaic, it's a formula executed well, and setting the action in medieval Venice was a stroke of genius, thanks to Tiraboschi's keen historical eye and sense of atmosphere.
Edgardo d'Arduino, a cleric and skilled copyist, is the supposed protagonist of the novel, but at the risk of invoking cliché, Venice is the true protagonist. While d'Arduino's search for the titular "eye stone," which he hopes will heal his failing sight, is an engaging plot, it is the backdrop that truly shines. Tiraboschi portrays Venice as something akin to a Wild West boomtown built on top of a swamp. His potent descriptions also provide moments of great beauty that suggest why men and women continued to try to live in such an impossible place: "this dimension suspended between the sea and the sky, these oily, ever-changing colors that blended into one another, stirred by the wind." This exceptional vision of a city in the throes of metamorphosis will persist in the reader's mind long after the murder mystery is resolved. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books
Discover: A noir situated in beautifully evoked 12-century Venice.