Friday, August 19, 2016

Ascension by Gregory Dowling


Gregory Dowling’s fifth novel; his first foray into historical territory, is set in mid 18th Century Venice and introduces a charming protagonist in the form of cicerone or tour guide Alvise Marangon. Having grown up mostly in England Alvise makes guiding British tourists his specialty but he gets more than he bargained for when he offers to guide the young Mr. Boscombe and his tutor Mr. Shackleford.
Soon Alvise is entangled in the city’s criminal underbelly finding himself arrested, robbed, beaten up and finally persuaded to join the city’s secret network of spies to uncover a criminal threat that goes to highest levels of Venice’s aristocratic society.
This is a wonderful page turner with a fabulous cast of characters from the gambling dens to the theatres, the booksellers to the taverns, the courtesans to the gondoliers. Alvise is able to use his innate sense of theatre and charm to move fluidly between all the classes and this also makes him a perfect spy.

Dowling’s storytelling is superb and the sights, sounds and smells of 18th Century Venice are brilliantly realised. Although the plot is resolved the book has the feel of the first in a series so I hope there will be a return for Alvise. This book would be ideal for fans of Diana Bretherick and Robin Blake.
Published by Polygon 2015.
This review originally appeared in Historical Novels Review Magazine

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