The Angels of Venice – Philip Gwynne Jones

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Venice once, arriving by local boat on a beautiful sunny day with no cruise ships in sight and before the main tourist throngs arrived. A wonderful city and who better to evoke its atmosphere than someone who lives there. Crime Cymru’s Philip Gwynne Jones has that pleasure and tells us about his latest novel…..

The Angels of Venice – Philip Gwynne Jones

“Angels” is the sixth installment in my series of books about Nathan Sutherland, Honorary British Consul in Venice and occasional (and accidental) crime fighter. The novel is set in the direct aftermath of the devastating floods that hit the city on November 12th, 2019.

The novel set me a challenge. Italy and Venice have been kind to us. It’s no exaggeration to say the city has changed our lives. If I was going to write about a real-life event – an event which had terrible consequences for so many people throughout the city – I needed to treat it with the utmost respect. At all costs, I thought, I had to avoid the charge of exploiting a real-life tragedy, simply because it made a good background for a crime novel.

I hope I succeeded. As to who “The Angels of Venice” actually are – well, I think the title works in multiple ways. But you’ll have to read it to find out why!

Here’s a short extract : Nathan has just been delivering bad news to a British citizen in the city. He’s also come across the cryptic phrase Angels for an angel. On leaving the building, he hears a door open behind him…


I’d made my way past the door on the landing below, when I heard it creak open behind me.

‘Jenny. Jenny darling?’

I stiffened, and stopped, my hand resting on the bannister. I turned around, slowly.

It was the woman from the night before. Her face was clearer in the electric light than it had been by candlelight. Her grey hair was drawn up into an untidy bun, and her fea- tures, although fine, were deeply lined with age. She reached out her hand towards me.

‘Jenny. Is that you? Have you come to see the angels?’

I took a step towards her, as gently as I could to avoid frightening her. I could see her face more clearly now, and her eyes were milky-white. She was blind.

‘I’m not Jenny, signora. My name’s Nathan Sutherland. I’m the British Honorary Consul. I’ve been visiting Matthew, Jenny’s boyfriend. Jenny is – well, Jenny is . . .’

My voice trailed off. A figure appeared behind the signora and shook her head, slowly waving her finger from side to side. She put her hands on the old woman’s shoulders and gently turned her around, moving her back inside.

‘No time for angels now, signora. No time for angels now.’ She turned her head to smile at me. ‘Good afternoon, signore,’ she whispered in a light East European accent, before making to close the door.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘Can I speak with you for a moment?’

She scowled. ‘It’s not a good time.’

‘It really won’t take long. Or I can come back later if you prefer?’

She sighed, a little theatrically, and then turned to her elderly companion. ‘One moment, signora.’ She pushed her hand towards me, as if to indicate that I should move back from the door, then stepped outside and closed it behind her. ‘What do you want, signore? I shouldn’t leave her alone too long.’

‘My name’s Nathan Sutherland, signora—?’
‘The couple upstairs, Oksana. Jennifer Whiteread and Matthew Blake. Do you know them?’
‘No, signore.’
‘Are you sure? It’s just that the signora seems to know Jenny’s name.’

‘She knows her name, signore. They would say hello to each other. That’s all.’

‘Okay. It’s just that she said something about “coming to see the angels”?’

Oksana lowered her voice. ‘The signora is confused, Mr Sutherland. It’s something she says from time to time. It doesn’t mean anything.’

‘Are you sure? Does the phrase Angels for an angel mean anything to you?’

She shook her head. ‘It doesn’t. I’m sorry.’ She leaned her head back against the door. ’Now she’s calling for me. I must go.’

I hadn’t heard anything. Nevertheless I was about to thank her for her time, when she closed the door in my face. From inside I heard Oksana’s voice.

‘There are no angels, signora. Not now.’

Philip Gwynne Jones was born in Swansea and grew up in South Wales. He spent twenty years in the IT industry before realising he was congenitally unsuited to it, and now works as a writer and translator. He lives in Venice with his wife Caroline, and a modestly friendly cat called Mimì.

He enjoys cooking, classic horror films and listens to far too much Italian progressive rock. / @PGJonesVenice

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