The Borgia Portrait

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Pub Date 01 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 31 Jul 2023

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A noble family, a legendary painting, a cursed palazzo. The new Venetian mystery from master storyteller David Hewson.

When Arnold Clover is recruited by Lizzie Hawker to help her look into her family inheritance, he cannot begin to guess the journey he is about to embark on.

Lizzie's mother, an Italian countess, disappeared thirty years ago, presumed dead. Her father, a famous, some say infamous, music promoter, has just died and now the family home Ca' Scacchi, a leaning palazzo in Dorsoduro, has fallen to her. When her mother vanished so too did a priceless painting, supposedly an erotic portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, which has captivated men for generations.

When a body is discovered in a hidden crypt beneath the checkerboard courtyard of the palazzo, other secrets are unearthed with it. Lying with the body is a document, a story of an episode in Casanova's colourful life, and within it a set of clues that might lead to the location of the painting. But it quickly becomes apparent that Lizzie and Arnold are not the only ones interested in finding the painting.

The search for the lost Lucrezia quickly becomes a race through the secret history of Venice, one with potentially deadly consequences.

A noble family, a legendary painting, a cursed palazzo. The new Venetian mystery from master storyteller David Hewson.

When Arnold Clover is recruited by Lizzie Hawker to help her look into her family...

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ISBN 9781448306572
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Average rating from 29 members

Featured Reviews

The second of David Hewsons' book featuring Arnold Clover and his friends. Hewson obviously know his Venice and his style brings the city to bright, vibrant life. I adored his first book with Arnold, an academic who spent his working life amongst dusty archives and on retiring chose to move to Venice with Eleanor , his wife. Unfortunately she died before they relocated and he decided to go by himself. His friend Luca, also a researcher, collaborates in another mystery here relating to a "cursed pallazzo", an English girl with a missing mother and a mystery to solve. This is a great story with plenty of action, puzzles and mild peril. I couldn't put it down. I cannot wait for the next instalment in Arnold and Lucas' adventures. I am grateful to Netgalley and Severn for an advance copy of The Borgia Portrait.
#TheBorgiaPortrait #NetGalley

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This is a wonderful crime fiction novel based around a cryptic story and clues and a treasure hunt around Venice to hunt down a missing painting. Lizzie Hawker may have inherited a cursed palazzo Ca’ Scacchi but the city authorities believe the palazzo should be in their hands as well as local businessman who claims it was promised to him by Lizzie’s mother decades before.
Arnold Clover is asked to assist Lizzie in exploring her potential inheritance .The discovery of a body at the palazzo believed to be Lucia Scacchi, Lizzie ‘s mother ,changes events and Arnold and Lizzie are up against time to solve the mystery of the vanished painting believed to have been in in the palazzo.
David Hewson’s meticulous attention historical and geographical detail is excellent ( I won’t deny - I found myself looking at online images and photographs of historical figures and Venetian landmarks ) The plot is fast paced and the interaction between Arnold, Lizzie and Luca the archivist is humorous and keeps the story lively.
This a great read and being a fan of Donna Leon, I was hooked from the start. Highly recommended for fans of Venice, and crime fiction.

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320 pages

5 stars

The wonderful author David Hewson takes us back to Venice once more in his latest novel.

Retired archivist Englishman Arnold Clover is now living in Venice. He is tasked with assisting an Englishwoman, Lizzie Hawker, with her inheritance. She is the sole survivor of the Scacchi family. She needs to decide what to do with her family home Ca’ Scacchi that she has not seen since she was five years old. She doesn’t speak a word of Italian and doesn’t really want to be in Venice. Her mother, a Countess named Lucia, committed suicide, her father, a somewhat n’er-do well Englishman, was apparently a thief who wasted his life trying to regain his status as a music producer.

So begins a tale of murder, deceit, corrupt officials, a shrewd police officer, puzzles and a quest that tries Arnold and Lizzie’s patience, but also draws them closer together. The purpose of the quest? To locate a lost portrait of Lucrezia Borgia.

Arnold and Lizzie become friends.

Of course, Arnold has the assistance of his very good friends Luca and Valentina. Together, they add so much to Mr. Hewson’s stories. Luca is also an archivist, but still employed by the city so he has access to much that Arnold does not. Valentina is a tough police officer, but has compassion and is very intelligent.

I very much appreciate Mr. Hewson’s descriptions of Venice and the historical tidbits he sprinkles throughout his stories. Imagine a city without cars! I love reading about history. I always feel as though I were witnessing the action first hand. I can imagine the statuary, the building and the streets of Venice. I truly enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to Mr. Hewson’s next Venetian adventure.

I want to thank NetGalley and Severn House for forwarding to me a copy of this wonderful book for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.

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Thank you NetGalley and Severn House for the eARC.
Arnold Glover, who moved to Venice after the death of his wife, is asked by Lizzie Hawker to help her figure out her inheritance, plus find a
mysterious missing painting. Lizzie's mother (missing, presumed dead) was the owner of the supposedly cursed palazzo Ca'Scacchi, which Lizzie assumes she will inherit. But Lizzie basically wants to sell the property and return to London. She doesn't even speak Italian...
The author's descriptions of Venice's geography and history is fantastic and the story is so good, absolutely impossible put down!
Highly recommended!

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This is the second book in the Venetian Mysteries and it is every bit as good as the first! Arnold Clover is back, requested by his Carabiniere friend Valentina Fabbri to assist newcomer Lizzie Hawker research her family's Venetian history and inheritance. Lizzie's father recently died in Britain, and Lizzie has returned to her mother's homeland to decide what to do with the crumbling family palazzo in Dorsoduro, Venice. Lizzie's mother, a Countess, disappeared thirty years and is thought to be dead. Many valuable artifacts from the home are missing, including an infamous painting of Lucrezia Borgia, which has inspired the lust of many men for generations. Lizzie's mother left behind a trail of clues in the form of a story about Casanova, with eight riddles to solve. Lizzie and Arnold become close companions and chase the clues down together, pursued all the while by fierce rival Enzo Canale.

This series gives me everything I want in a mystery novel - tension, atmosphere, great characters, snippets of history and of course, Venice! The locations featured in the book are real, as well as the historical figures. So well-written, you can hear the water lapping as you read. The chemistry between Arnold and Lizzie adds a light romantic element to the novel this time around, which is quite fun and reveals a softer side of Arnold. I found the references to the politics of saving cultural heritage and landmarks in Italy an interesting side topic, and not one that the casual visitor thinks much about. A truly atmospheric and engrossing read - loved it.

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A riddle linking the infamous Borgia portrait by Bartolommeo Veneto to Casanova. The last known owner , a penniless Venetian countess , Lucia Scacchi missing 35 years is a distant memory to Lizzie, the daughter left in the care of an immoral abusive father at 5 years of age. Penniless but focussed now on searching out secrets from the past, she is introduced to Arnold Clover, a quiet solitary widower, a historian and resident of Venice, with the time, interest and ability to provide valuable assistance in her search .What follows is a tantalising mix of escapades across Venice savouring the beauty, the history, the mystery whilst digging into the background of a 500 year old painting of Lucretia Borgia, a popes daughter ; dangerously linking it to a family tragedy unfolding under the piercing eyes of numerous interested parties. There follows a cat and mouse chase between numerous individuals to uncover secrets from the past potentially opening up riches beyond belief if solving the enigmatic riddle. A conclusion that defies expectations tying up numerous loose ends but somehow becomes secondary to the pages of beauty, history and poetry when traversing the hidden gems that together give the reader a once in a lifetime adventure through the hidden joys of Venice. Many thanks to author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC of an unbelievable five star read.

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I must start by thanking both NetGalley as well as the publisher for my eARC in exchange for my honest review.
A wonderful mystery with a series of clues to the location of a lost masterpiece. As I wrote after reading the first Venetian mystery with Arnold Clover, this series is a wonderful detailed description of walking the streets of Venice while also enjoying some of it's unique gastronomical delights! I will not say it will be appreciated by everyone, it requires someone patient enough to wade through the many clues and twists to find a wonderful intriguing mystery.

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This is second book in the Arnold Clover Venetian Mystery Series.

Arnold is a quiet and unassuming widower. Having moved to Venice for his retirement, Arnold’s experience with archives and unlocking historical mysteries means that he finds himself embroiled in mysteries and murders.

In this installment, Arnold has been hired to help an heiress look for a missing but priceless painting of Lucrezia Borgia. Lizzie Harker is the daughter of a staggeringly rich Italian countess and a famous music producer. But her riches to rags story, hides some dark secrets.

The mystery of the painting leads Arnold and Lizzie on an interesting although in some cases pointless treasure hunt across Venice. The riddles that Lizzie’s mother leaves take them to hidden treasures and stories behind buildings and events in Venice. The clues don’t really seem to lead on from another, but are fascinating and cleverly put together highlighting the countess’ (and the writer’s) intelligence and knowledge of Venice.

Lizzie and Arnold are well supported by Arnold’s friends as they race to find the painting before corrupt official and all-around villain Enzo Canale who has his own connections to the crumbling mansion.

The real star of this book is Venice itself. The descriptions are so atmospheric and rich that even if you have never been to the city, the reader can vividly picture the settings. Added to the descriptions of the food, this will definitely make you want to pack a bag and head for the airport.

Thank you to Netgalley for my gifted digital copy of The Borgia Portrait

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A palazzo off the Grand Canal with a distinct lean, which has been stripped of its former glories and imbued with a curse is a prize indeed, and the perfect location for Renaissance mystery with a twist of the gothic. Lizzie is in Venice following the death of her father who she nursed through his later years. She is struggling with the Italian bureaucracy and so has been put in touch with Arnold Clover the retired archivist for assistance. When a body is found, along with some mysterious documents, in a secret crypt in the grounds, life suddenly gets complicated. A fanciful tale about Casanova along with a puzzle, whose clues when solved promise to reveal the location of a lost masterpiece. What more can Lizzie and Arnold do but try to solve the puzzle and become art treasure hunters.

A storyline of journeys and discoveries, some wonderful, others requiring some soul searching. The most obvious one is the quest for the missing painting which provides the spine of the plot. Lizzie has much to discover too, only hearing about her early life from her father, her perspective has been skewed. This is something she discovers when the Venetians she meets recall what he was like. Perhaps he poisoned her mind to her mother? Lizzie must also discover herself too, having had her early life blighted by her father pushing her onto the stage and then, of course, nursing him through his decline. She is a woman entering middle age but only just awakening in herself. There is also some self-discovery and memories stirred for Arnold too.

Venice is the perfect setting for such a mystery and has been used its fullest. The treasure hunt clues providing the perfect device to have the unlikely pairing, of Lizzie and Arnold, seeking out the hidden unexplored corners of the city. Arnold’s knowledge is limited, so of course there is room for friends Luca, Ugo and Carabinieri Capitano Valentia to chip in with their local knowledge. The dapper Luca and glamourous Valentia bring that effortless Italian style and panache to proceedings which the Brit abroad could never manage. Somehow making an aperitivo at a simple restaurant seem better than cocktails at the Ritz. They also ensure that their stamina in maintained by sustenance for the many local delicacies. This is not a book for those on a strict diet.
The puzzle is also a perfect way to introduce some of the incident and odd characters of Venice’s past to embroider a rich tapestry backing the quest. A treasure hunt that seamlessly weaves together fact and fiction and will have you Googling people and places as you read along. If immersing yourself in history is your kind of book, you'll love it.

The chemistry between Lizzie and Arnold works well considering the generational age gap, with the lightest of nods towards the great partnerships of 1940s/50s Hollywood. She has so much to learn about her past, her life and the Italian way they he bears the brunt of her frustrations. As they progress and settle into friendship Arnold starts to reflect on his own past and we learn just a little more about his married life.

The story line moves along smoothly and logically. Classic elements are added by including rivals for the search introducing some urgency and competition. There is little by way of violence and jeopardy, its not that kind of thriller, but when it does appear it is even more shocking for it.

Light relief comes in the form of situations, observations on the Italian way of life and small cameos from old locals and the wonderfully named journalist Gervaise Alfonso Lascelles. He’s a slightly grotesque figure, the boozy tabloid hack, but with some redeeming features.

The Borgia Portrait is a Renaissance mystery wrapped up in a love letter to Venice and its people.

Thanks to Net Galley, the author and publisher for allowing access to this eArc in exchange for a fair review.

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I would like to thank Netgalley and Severn House Publishers for an advance copy of The Borgia Portrait, the second novel to feature retired archivist Arnold Clover set in Venice.

Arnold has been asked to help Lizzie Hawker navigate the Italian legal system. Her mother disappeared thirty years ago at the same time as a priceless sensual portrait of Lucrezia Borgia and her father recently died so bureaucracy is taking an interest in her mother’s historic home, Ca’ Scacchi. When a body is found in a hidden crypt it poses more questions than answers as it is hiding a short story with clues to the whereabouts of the painting.

I enjoyed The Borgia Portrait, which is as much a travel guide to Venice’s hidden attractions and history as it is murder mystery. Still, it is full of twists and turns and has an engrossing story to tell.

It is told from Arnold’s first person point of view and that is an inspired choice as he is very unassuming, but quite bright at solving obscure clues. He is the outsider who can give an objective view on the city and its inhabitants, but as a resident he has enough familiarity to get about. He is very likeable in his kind but diffident manner and brings warmth to a narrative that is decidedly tricky.

The plot consists of Arnold and Lizzie trekking through Venice from one historic site to the next, following obscure clues to find the painting. Of course, they’re not alone in this hunt, although there is never any tension in the hunt. It’s all a bit convoluted and seems designed to expose these less well known sites to a wider audience. It’s completely wasted on me as I have no visualisation skills and can’t process it, especially as most of the clues have no real bearing on the location of the painting. I did, however, enjoy the ending of the novel which produces no end of surprises and explanations. It’s well worth the trek round Venice.

The Borgia Portrait is a good read that I can recommend.

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A missing painting, a crumbling palazzo, and a long gone woman make for a puzzle that Arnold tries to help Lizzie solve. He's a widower fairly newly resident in Venice and she's just come into an inheritance- an inheritance someone else wants badly. This is complex enough that it's difficult to synopsize and, more importantly, to keep even veteran fans of the genre guessing, I love that it's set in Venice, with all the intrigue that's just part of the fabric of the city, Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC, Excellent read,

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Venice, art-crimes, archivist, amateur-sleuth, mystery, suspense, thriller, widower, curse, cultural-exploration, cultural-differences, historic-buildings, historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-research, history-and-culture, heiress, friends, family, family-history, local-law-enforcement, deceit, expats, lies, secrets, murder, corruption, riveting*****

I missed the first in this new series! But the author kept me in the loop except for wanting to read more about Arnold, Luca, Valentina, and Venice. There is so much detailed history and location descriptions skillfully woven into the mystery that this history geek was entranced. The publisher's blurb is a good hook but the writing kept me riveted.
I requested and received an EARC from Severn House via NetGalley. Thank you!

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The Borgia’s and Venice! What a combination!

Hewson has produced an impressive mystery novel that explores the hidden and dark parts of Venice. Arnold Clover (first met in The Medici Murders) has been referred to Lizzie Hawker, the only surviving daughter of the missing, presumed dead Countessa Scacchi, to translate for her in a legal case. The city has concerns about the subsistence of the family palazzo, Ca’Scacchi just off the Grand Canal. The city has demanded legal right of entry to check.
When the city engineers begin investigating the subsistence what they find is a crypt with a dead body dressed in a distinctive dress owned by the Contessa. A letter in a typewriter gives a mysterious message.
The palazzo has had a chequered history and is believed by locals to be cursed.
Treasures belonging to the palazzo have disappeared over the years, including a hidden, erotic portrait of Lucia Borgia.
The mysterious Lucia portrait, owned by the Scacchi family has driven men and women to outrageous sexual heights, bewitched as they are by it. It apparently holds an almost mystical sway over viewers.
Arnold joins Lizzie in the hunt for the portrait, following the clues left by her mother.
Their journey is shadowed by minions of Enzo Canale, a self made business man, a bully, who is after the portrait.
An intriguing, rich and rewarding read that leads into places unknown and never lets up the pressure.

A Severn House ARC via NetGalley.
Many thanks to the author and publisher.
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

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I think that the story of palazzo Scacchi is inspired by Ca Dario, a a Venice Renaissance palace which is thought to be cursed as a lot of people who owned or lived there died while they were living there.
The cursed palace is not just something born with the plot, I assume it's inspired by the real story.
That said I loved this story that talks the underbelly of Venice, of how it was in the 70s, and how the history and the romance were never very far.
There's a lot going on, there's a complex plot and I was glad to catch up with Arnold, Valentina, Luca and the cast of characters.
A solid plot, twisty and full of surprises, that kept me guessing and hooked.
Loved it
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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The Borgia Portrait is the second book in the Venetian Mystery series and I must say I'm growing fond of Arnold Clover, and also of his sidekicks Luca and Valentia.

I really like the way the author weaves the story about an episode from Casanova's life together with information about Lucretia Borgia in the quest to retrieve her erotic portrait and the mystery about the death of Lizzies mother. I just loved the riddles, of which I managed to solve a few, which sent them on a quest through the whole city. (a bit Dan Brown, but than much better ;-) ) Offcourse this created an excellent opportunity to describe a lot of interesting places in Venice and paint a vivid image of the city. I've visited Venice a couple of times and even did a two week Italian language course in the city and it was like I was back in the city, walking around all the familiar places. Made me put another trip to Venice on my todo list.
The food spots and food descriptions are a bonus!

Well written and excellent historical researched as always, looking forward to Arnold Clovers next adventure.
Full marks

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for this advanced copy.

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When Arnold Clover is recruited by Lizzie Hawker to help her look into her family inheritance, he cannot begin to guess the journey he is about to embark on. Lizzie's mother, an Italian countess, disappeared thirty years ago , so too did a priceless painting, supposedly an erotic portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, Her father, a famous, some say infamous, music promoter, has just died and now the family home Ca' Scacchi, a leaning palazzo in Dorsoduro, has fallen to her. When a body is discovered in a hidden crypt beneath the checkerboard courtyard of the palazzo, other secrets are unearthed with it.
Well written, well paced with wonderful characters & beautiful descriptions, the mystery also had me enthralled. The author certainly knows how to draw you in from page one & captivates you until the last page. Whilst I loved the mystery it’s the descriptions of the locations that’s the icing on the cake – I felt as though I was there. The second book featuring Arnold & I preferred it to the first as this time I wasn’t as bogged down with the history. I found it very hard to put down & read it straight through
My review is for a special copy I voluntarily read

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The Borgia Portrait by David Hewson is a riveting tale filled with unexpected twists, intricate characters, and a plot brimming with suspense. The author's talent for seamlessly blending historical elements with a contemporary quest makes this book a must-read for both mystery enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Prepare to be swept away on a thrilling journey with potentially deadly consequences that will leave you guessing until the very end.

Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for this advanced copy.

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Book 2 in the Venetian Mysteries series.
Retired British archivist, Arnold Clover is now living in Venice, when he is recruited by a British lady, Lizzie Hawker, who following the death of her father, a rock music impresario, needs his assistance in securing her inheritance.
Her mother, an Italian countess, disappeared 35 years ago and is presumed dead.
But when her mother vanished, so did a priceless painting of Lucretia Borgia.
The race is on to find the painting through the buildings and waterways of Venice.
The perfect intellectual historical mystery.
The author provides a wealth of information, especially on the history of Venice, it’s architecture and art works.
Also the author’s notes at the end of the book show that the majority of the locations featured are real and just waiting to be discovered by a tourist explorer.
Thanks @davidhewson, @severnhouse & @netgalley for the eARC

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