The Abomination

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theabominationWritten by Jonathan Holt — In Venice, a woman’s body, clothed in the robes of a Catholic priest, washes up during one of the city’s regular bouts of flooding. She’s been shot in the head twice, and mysterious tattoos point to possible occult involvement. Detective-Colonel Aldo Piola is at the scene along with his new partner, Captain Kat Tapo. She’s about to experience her first murder investigation. She admires Piola a great deal, and is eager to impress him, but her first case might be more than a straightforward murder.

Meanwhile, at the Caserma Ederle American army base, Second Lieutenant Holly Boland receives a request for information from a woman named Barbara Holton, who’s interested in atrocities committed during Operation Storm during the break-up of Yugoslavia. As Holly looks into the request, she finds information that could paint the Army in a very bad light.

Meanwhile, Piola and Tapo continue their investigation which leads them to a website called Carnivia, a virtual reconstruction of Venice. Its creator, Daniele Barbo, has just been convicted of breaking internet privacy laws by not allowing the government access to Carnivia’s user data, and is awaiting sentencing. Barbo is a genius who was kidnapped as a child. He was left disfigured and is now a recluse, unable to connect with others.

The story becomes more intricate as Piola and Tapo come into contact with various police authorities with jurisdiction in Venice – the Polizia di Stato (answering to the Interior Ministry), and the Carabinieri (part of the Ministry of Defense). There seems to be mistrust of the law on all sides, and within its own bodies in Italy, but they follow the clues and as more bodies start piling up there appears to be a link to the US military.

Upon receiving this news, the powers that attempt to cripple the investigation. Piola feels that organised crime is taking over Venice, and Tapo is inclined to agree but she wants to fight the good fight and strike out on her own to solve the crime. Further complicating matters, Kat Tapo is increasingly attracted to her boss even though he’s married,  and is her superior. Some impulses are impossible to ignore, even if giving in to them could mean disaster.

In parallel, Holly Boland continues her investigation and is horrified at what she learns of Operation Storm and atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian conflict. Eventually she comes into contact with Tepo’s investigation and the IT wizard Daniele Barbo. They all team up – with explosive results.

The Abomination is the first in the Carnivia trilogy and is a fantastic debut for English author Jonathan Holt. Kat Tapo is determined, strong, and very good at her job while Holly Boland is loyal to the US Army, and her home country. However, after a childhood spent in Italy with her well-known father, she’s glad to be back in a country she also loves and is determined to do the right thing. When Holly and Kat ask for Daniele Barbo’s help, the disfigured man at last gets the opportunity to connect with other people in a meaningful way.

What unfolds is a fascinating murder mystery involving war crimes, conspiracy, human trafficking and an intriguing virtual reality world where secrets are traded. The traditions of the past meet with the technology of the future. The two very strong and smart female characters are great, but attention is required throughout since the plot has many layers to it. Its conclusion will absolutely have you on the edge of your seat.

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Head of Zeus

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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