Another first in a series – audiobook. This is set in the historical Venice and even though it’s listed as fantasy, it has only one fantasy element. I really liked the setting of Renaissance Venice. This is also a mystery story where the amateur detective has to find the murderer.

The first chapters are available at Amazon.com’s Shorts –program for less than a dollar.

Alfeo Zeno is the apprentice of the alchemist, astrologer, and healer Maestro Nostradamus. Although he’s not the famous Nostradamus but his nephew. Alfeo was born as a noble but his family is very poor and so he must work.

Nostradamus is famous and his clients are the wealthy and occasionally noble as well. Usually, this is a good thing because they can afford to pay Nostradamus well and give Alfeo generous tips, too. However, when one of the clients dies mysteriously, Nostradamus turns out to be the prime suspect.

Earlier, the maestro had done the victim’s horoscope and foreseen that he would die just when he did. People are starting to suspect that the maestro had poisoned the unfortunate man in order to make his prediction come through. The victim himself was a rather powerful figure: a rich nobleman and a procurator of the Doge. He died during a small gathering of people who came to view a book which might be very old and valuable. Nostradamus was present, of course, but Alfeo wasn’t.

Alfeo has the honor of trying to save both his master’s and his own neck from the hangman. Fortunately, he is quick-witted and has a lot of quirky friends. He can also use his master’s connections among the nobility. And if all else fails, magic might provide the answer.

Alfeo narrates the story in first person. He’s likable but not too meek. He knows when he should take advantage of his noble bloodline and when to play the humble servant. He also usually knows more than he tells others.

The book has a lot of fun, quirky characters. Nostradamus himself is a cranky old man whose feet are so bad that he can’t walk but must be carried on the rare occasions when he ventures outside. His carrier is a mute giant who has been taught a few, simple signs. Alfeo’s lover is a very highly paid (or not exactly paid – she only accepts very expensive gifts) courtesan Violetta. She’s the ultimate actress who can change her voice and expression to be one moment a chaste nun and the next a vigorous lover. She’s also highly intelligent and, of course, well connected. The barbarous Englishmen are quite funny, too, as are the rather dour lawmen who are trying to catch Alfeo almost at every turn.

Characters: great!

Setting: I really, really liked this historical place and I’m going to get at least one history book about Venice. The one magical element seem quite fitting to me.

Plot: I was rather distracted by the setting and the characters. The plot seemed complex enough to me, though. Centers on political intrigue and solving the murder instead of battles or lightning bolts.

Overall: I liked this book a lot and I’m likely to listen through again. (Usually I don’t reread much.) I hope I can get the next in the series this year.