MEET two unusual detectives. Ludovico – a young man who has had his testicles cut off for the sake of opera. And Monsieur Arouet – a fraudster, or just possibly the philosopher Voltaire.
VISIT the setting. Carnival time in mid-18th century Venice, a city of winter mists, and the season of masquerade and decadence.
ENCOUNTER a Venetian underworld of pimps, harlots, gamblers, forgers and charlatans.
BEWARE of a mysterious coterie of aristocrats, Jesuits, Freemasons and magicians.
DISCOVER a murder: that of the nobleman, Sgr Alessandro Molin, found swinging from a bridge with his innards hanging out and a message in code from his killer.
Scherzo is a murder mystery of sparkling vivacity and an historical novel of stunning originality told with a wit and style highly praised by critics and nominated for the Booker Prize.
Scherzo was nominated for the Booker Prize and is available in Kindle format for the first time.
Here’s the Amazon review of the hardback:
Jim Williams’ Scherzo takes us to the city of gondolas and masks in its most decadent period, to an 18th-century never-never land where dates and identities blur. Castrated as a boy to preserve his soprano voice for the church, Ludovico survives by singing, whoring and his wits. With a visiting French philosopher going by the name of Arouet, Ludovico finds the stabbed and disembowelled body of his employer’s rival Signor Molin hanging from a bridge. Ludovico’s troubles do not end there. He is pursued by Jesuit conspirators and a jealous madman obsessed with a blue velvet suit Ludovico has borrowed from his gigolo friend Giacomo (as with Arouet, Williams makes us guess at Giacomo’s true identity).
As he shares in Arouet’s investigation of the murder, Ludovico matches wits with the sharpest minds of his time and proves considerably more than the Watson-like narrator he at first appears. Williams has produced one of the more decorative historical thrillers of recent years and at the same time interestingly subverts the whole genre. After all, “scherzo” means “joke”, and there are deep levels at which this is not a wholly serious book–”the solution to a mystery is not like the goal of a journey, and that it is the journey not the destination which enlightens us”. The games intrinsic to thrillers are played with delicious frivolity. And yet, what is serious is the touching portrait of the vulnerable narrator Ludovico who gradually acquires self-respect amid the threats and contempt of his social superiors. –Roz Kaveney