... a thrilling story of passion and deception ... an incessant, fearsome tension, like holding your breath underwater. Bollen’s portrayal of the men’s relationship with the art world adds to the story’s persistent intrigue ... Daydreaming about Venice is an inevitable side effect of reading this book. Like the city itself, A Beautiful Crime is worth losing yourself in.
... stylish ... Bollen is a skilled purveyor of suspense. And he knows his overcrowded Venice ... Bollen’s wit sparkles on almost every page ... I wonder, though, if the dishonest and brutal world Nick and Clay inhabit could leave them quite as wholesome and enamored of each other as Bollen would have us believe ... Still, in lieu of going to Venice, which as Bollen reminds us is being 'visited to death,' you might want to settle for a few cuticle-biting hours with A Beautiful Crime.
His characters are as meticulously crafted as Highsmith’s, his plots as thrillingly constructed, and his meditations on loneliness and alienation as compassionately rendered ... What makes A Beautiful Crime work so well is how much empathy Bollen affords his characters. They do unspeakable things, but they suffer. They manipulate, steal and lie, but they are also fearful and hope for understanding. Bollen doesn’t let them off the hook. He is critical of them and makes them pay for their undeniably selfish deeds. No matter, we continue to care about them ... Most disarming is how smoothly Bollen tells his story. His language is simultaneously inviting and forbidding — accessible, playful, and then suddenly, shockingly brilliant. His characters, despite their cruelty and barbarism, are developed enough to feel real, honest and even (gasp) likable.
... a rich sense of time and place ... flawed central characters who navigate murky moral waters ... As a reader, you’re aligned with their hunger to level-up economically and, as they wander through Bollen’s gorgeously described Venice, aesthetically ... Bollen...embrace[s] moral complexity in their crime novels. While that may not produce ‘likable’ characters, it does produce truly fascinating characters...whose ambitions and flaws make them unmistakably human.
... the author no doubt has intimate knowledge of the rich, arty and offbeat --- and he’s adept at imagining the tangled psyches of those who plot to rip them off ... Getting the reader to root for a charming con man/killer --- in this case, two of them --- is a classic fictional strategy...Bollen pulls it off ... the kind of novel where you just know something is going to go wrong with the scam sooner or later, leading one or both of the guys to commit acts they’d never imagined themselves capable of. But you don’t know when, or how, and Bollen is adept at keeping the suspense nicely taut ... He also excels at evoking Venice itself. His fascination with the watery city is clear, his descriptions both accurate and eloquent ... While Bollen’s characterizations of Venice really sing, his people aren’t always as vivid. Supporting players seem to me more colorful than Nick and Clay, who need to be presented attractively and somewhat blandly in order to sustain the reader’s sympathy ... has a lot more heart than Highsmith’s dark thrillers, but the plotting is less skillful, lacking the surprise twists I expected ... If the structure is imperfect, the setting is marvelous. Venice isn’t just a scenic background for the action of A Beautiful Crime. Its capricious tides and twisty, deceptive geography seem to mirror the characters’ secrets and intrigues.
A compelling read with appealing characters, Bollen’s novel is deftly paced and plotted with a beautifully realized setting that brings Venice to vivid life. The result is a treat for both crime-fiction fans and armchair travelers.
Bollen offers first-rate entertainment that features attractive young people, beautiful locations, contentious families, fabulous wealth, lies and deceit, friendship and passion, and dirty deeds ... enjoyable ... Bollen links each of the two narratives in significant ways to the criminal adventure to offer skillfully wrought crime fiction plumbing LGBTQ romance and the meaning of love.