Cover image for A beautiful crime : a novel
A beautiful crime : a novel
First edition.
Physical Description:
377 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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When Nicholas Brink leaves New York City to join Clay Guillory in Italy, he thinks he knows what he's getting into. His more experienced boyfriend has come into a small inheritance from an eccentric bohemian artist: the windfall consists of counterfeit heirlooms as well as a share in a decrepit Venetian palazzo. Clay hopes to use Nick's connection to an antiques dealer to unload the fake silver on a brash, unsuspecting American. Clay's smarts and Nick's charm are the keys to pulling off their scheme. Nick is no naive pawn--he takes quickly to Venice's magic and beauty and embeds himself in the city's monied social orbit. Clay, meanwhile, finds in the Floating City a chance to settle old scores. After pulling off their initial con, however, Nick decides that more money can be made in Venice to set them up for life--even if their next move involves drastically greater risks. As it turns out, nothing in Venice is as it seems, and more than one life stands in the way of their happiness.


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From the author of The Destroyers comes a twisty story of deception, set in contemporary Venice and featuring a young American couple who have set their sights on a high-stakes con.

"Stylish... a compelling take on the eternal question of how good people morph into criminals. Terrific."--People, Book of the Week

When Nick Brink and his boyfriend Clay Guillory meet up on the Grand Canal in Venice, they have a plan in mind--and it doesn't involve a vacation. Nick and Clay are running away from their turbulent lives in New York City, each desperate for a happier, freer future someplace else. Their method of escape? Selling a collection of counterfeit antiques to a brash, unsuspecting American living out his retirement years in a grand palazzo. With Clay's smarts and Nick's charm, their scheme is sure to succeed.

As it turns out, tricking a millionaire out of money isn't as easy as it seems, especially when Clay and Nick let greed get the best of them. As Nick falls under the spell of the city's decrepit magic, Clay comes to terms with personal loss and the price of letting go of the past. Their future awaits, but it is built on disastrous deceits, and more than one life stands in the way of their dreams.

A Beautiful Crime is a twisty grifter novel with a thriller running through its veins. But it is also a meditation on love, class, race, sexuality, and the legacy of bohemian culture. Tacking between Venice's soaring aesthetic beauty and its imminent tourist-riddled collapse, Bollen delivers another "seductive and richly atmospheric literary thriller" (New York Times Book Review).

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

At the start of this stunning crime novel from Bollen (The Destroyers), 25-year-old Nicholas Brink leaves his lover and life in New York City to meet his new boyfriend, Clay Guillory, in Venice. There, the two young men set in motion a supposedly foolproof con to unload counterfeit silver on Richard Forsyth West, a charming, wealthy ex-pat American for whom Clay once worked and who's immersed in Venice's renovation. Clay inherited the silver from his last partner, the much older Freddy van der Haar. The sale will allow Clay to pay off debts incurred while caring for Freddy and allow the couple a fresh start. While the swindle fuels the plot, the story gains its strength from its look at gay romance and how individuals become a couple, as well as its view of shabby yet chic Venice, with its "fugitive magic" that lacks "the reality check of poverty and ugliness and ordinary struggles." Clay and Nick grapple with their morals and greed while remaining appealing. Readers will easily root for them to get away with the con. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Jan.)

Kirkus Review

Andr Aciman meets Patricia Highsmith in this satisfying exercise in literary crime."No mythical city should be judged by its airport." So we read as 25-year-old Nicholas Brink, an Ohioan by way of New York, lands in Venice in a "Gobi of concrete." Nick is cut out for finer things, and he has come to Venice to take his part in a con game of his own devising. Bollen (The Destroyers, 2017, etc.) skillfully lets the details out bit by bit: We learn on one page that he has a boyfriend, Clay Guillory, on another that Clay is an Italian speaker who knows Venice well, on still another that Clay is an African American who, Nick hopes, will find the city of Othello less ethnically fraught than a white America that sees Clay "as a blur of black skin." The crime is delicious, a sale of counterfeit antiques to an American expat who has more money than he knows what to do with. As must happen in stories of this sort, mistakes are made, and Nick, who presents himself as the affable good guy, gets greedyand, Clay protests, "Getting greedy is what will get us into trouble." Instead of selling a bunch of old silver and such, Nick wants to sell a whole palazzo that only partly belongs to Clay by virtue of a friendship with a now-deceased bohemian artistonly partly, the rest being tied up in a family squabble of epically Venetian proportions. Cons turn into countercons as a private investigator-cum-strongman turns up, and when that happens, Bollen's relatively gentle game of cat and mouse takes a bloody turn that's not entirely unexpected. Clay's warning to Nick turns out to be exactly right, as Nick sheds any vestigial boyishness in the course of a would-be swindle that goes exactly wrong.Fans of crime fiction will delight in this marriage of knowing aestheticism and old-fashioned mayhem. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.