Thursday, August 18, 2011

"The Good Thief's Guide to Venice"

Chris Ewan’s debut novel, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, won the Long Barn Books First Novel Competition and was shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award.

It was followed by The Good Thief's Guide to Paris (book 2 in the Charlie Howard series) and The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas (book 3).

Ewan applied the Page 69 Test to the latest novel in the series, The Good Thief's Guide to Venice, and reported the following:
Wouldn’t you know it, Page 69 falls at a crucial juncture for my lead character, Charlie Howard, globetrotting mystery author and professional thief-for-hire. In just a short half-page, he makes a fateful decision and agrees to do the bidding of a glamorous female cat burglar named Graziella. Mind you, Charlie doesn’t have a lot of choice. Graziella is blackmailing him – she’s stolen his most prized possession (a signed first edition of The Maltese Falcon) and she’s refusing to return it unless Charlie breaks into a Venetian palazzo on her behalf. Page 69 comes shortly after Graziella has lured Charlie to a lonely moonlit balcony, and explained her dastardly plan. Her scheme is so exhaustive she even hands him a sheaf of papers.
The sheets had been torn from a spiral-bound pad and they were covered in detailed notes and haphazard sketches. The package would take some studying, but at first glance, it looked like a comprehensive breakdown of everything I was likely to come up against.

Stuffing the pages back inside the envelope, I bent down for the briefcase, then stood in my winter coat, the case in one hand and the envelope in the other, looking, I imagine, a lot like a businessman about to set out for a day at the office. ‘Be sure and look after my book,’ I told her, turning to open the doors to the empty apartment.

‘Then do not look inside the case.’

‘Wouldn’t dream of it,’ I called over my shoulder.

But not for the first time that night, I turned out to be wrong.
What page 69 doesn’t give you, is a sense of the attraction and conflict at the heart of the twisted relationship Charlie and Graziella have found themselves engaged in. Yes, Graziella is blackmailing Charlie, and sure, she’s stolen from him, but the truth is he doesn’t altogether mind. Graziella intrigues him. She excites him. And since he’s been spending most of his time in Venice trying to ignore the itch in his felonious fingers, so as to concentrate on writing his latest book, he’s not exactly upset to have a reason to step out on the prowl yet again.

I like the last line of the extract, though. It gives some sense of the trouble that’s shortly to come Charlie’s way. Because, naturally, Graziella’s request is not as simple as it might first appear. And it goes without saying that telling a born thief not to look inside a locked case is only going to result in one (very explosive) outcome…
Learn more about Chris Ewan and his work at his website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Paris.

Writers Read: Chris Ewan.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue