Christopher Bollen’s latest novel, A Beautiful Crime, is a thrilling story of passion and deception. Amid a labyrinth of Venetian canals, bridges and crumbling palazzos, we meet the scheming protagonists, Nick Brink and his boyfriend, Clay Guillory, two young Americans who have left their tumultuous pasts in New York to start anew in Venice.
Their plan is simple: They will use Clay’s counterfeit antiques, inherited from his previous relationship with a formerly famous artist, to con a wealthy and arrogant American in Venice named Richard West. Nick, having apprenticed with a famous antiques dealer in New York, will use his charm and connections to pull off the scam. The millions from the sale will pay off Clay’s inherited debt (which surreptitiously came along with the counterfeit antiques) and allow him and Nick to start with a clean slate.
Can two good people pull off a con full of deceit and fraud? It’s a question that persists all the way to the book’s end, maintaining 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.
Drawing from his days as an intern at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Bollen mixes cultural and historical nuances into this crime saga. Daydreaming about Venice is an inevitable side effect of reading this book. Like the city itself, A Beautiful Crime is worth losing yourself in.