Magical Venice ...and murder.
Jane Thornley was one of my very first guests. She joined me on episode 14 to talk about her Crime By Design books. Today she is back to discuss The Carpet Cipher, the first book in the Agency of Ancient Lost and Found mysteries.
Jane has always done a lot of traveling, which is reflected in all her books and that's true as well of the excerpt she reads to us. We begin in Venice, pre-Covid-19, and you can almost smell the damp and decay as Jane's protagonist, Phoebe McCabe makes her way through the city. I've never been to Italy, but am as desperate as ever to visit the floating city after hearing Jane read.
This week's mystery author
Jane Thornley has been creating stories forever, or at least, as far back as she can remember. Once a superintendent of schools, once a travel host, once a professional librarian, once and still a knitwear designer, now she remains passionate about travel, history and art.
Though she's published many books, her new Agency of the Ancient Lost & Found series remains the most popular.
To learn more about Jane and all her books visit JaneThornley.com
Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the excerpt below. Remember you can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Android, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and Spotify.
Excerpt from The Carpet Cipher
Venice, February 2019
How long had it been since she had last ventured into the Venetian streets at night—five years, ten? Too long ago, in any event, and to do so tonight of all nights, when the carnival finale was in full swing and the revelry would reach a raucous pitch, seemed foolish even for her. How she detested the noise, the crowds, even the fierce and gilded costumes that would press against her in the dark like fevered dreams. To stay home by the fire with a book and a glass of wine seemed far preferable. Still, it must be done. After tonight she would lay one matter to rest and possibly see the conclusion of another, much older mystery.
She opened the front door, hesitating briefly before leaving the safety of her palazzo and plunging into the throng, her velvet coat wrapped tightly around her to ward away the spring chill. As expected, the young people were outdoing each other with fantastic finery. Gone were the days when only the time traveler mode of long gowns and medieval costumes ruled, though plenty of those still roamed the streets. Now creative interlopers had arrived with glittery fairy wings, and was that a chicken? Yes, a chicken, complete with an enormous egg tucked under one false wing! She stifled a laugh.
Her own mask, on the other hand, was demure by comparison, a lovely sun/moon creation she had had especially made for another carnival long ago when she had been a young woman, her whole life stretching ahead. Then, the duality of light and dark had been no more than a playful game. As on that evening, she also wore the cape worked in deep blue velvet stenciled in gold stars with Mariano Fortuny’s distinctive flair. Now, that subtle silken loveliness seemed to sink like a poor cousin against the surrounding sequins and gaudy trappings.
Never mind, she told herself, the man she was to meet would appreciate it for what it was: a testament to artisan beauty in a world that had long lost sight of what does not scream for attention. That she would reunite with the one with whom she had first worn the ensemble was a fitting end to their long torturous relationship. Though they had not seen one another for many decades, she prayed that he had finally forgiven her long enough to help her now. He of all people would know the significance of what she had discovered.
But first, she must resolve the other matter. There was to be no meeting at her family’s weaving studio, on that point she was firm. The call had come just moments before she left the villa and her first response had been to refuse the request, but then she reconsidered.