The Abomination (Carnivia Trilogy Series #1)

The Abomination (Carnivia Trilogy Series #1)

3.2 10
by Jonathan Holt

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A propulsive tale of murder, corruption, and international intrigue at the crossroads of a physical and virtual Venice, where a female Italian police captain works to unravel a dark conspiracy linking the CIA and the Catholic Church

When the clock strikes midnight on the feast day of La Befana, Venice is aglow as a cascade of glittering fireworks bursts above


A propulsive tale of murder, corruption, and international intrigue at the crossroads of a physical and virtual Venice, where a female Italian police captain works to unravel a dark conspiracy linking the CIA and the Catholic Church

When the clock strikes midnight on the feast day of La Befana, Venice is aglow as a cascade of glittering fireworks bursts above the city. Masked figures crowd the vaporettos, the trattorias are humming with grappa-soaked gossip, and the possibility for random passion heats the frosty winter air.

Across the Grand Canal, beneath the stunning white dome of one of Venice's grandest landmarks, the Santa Maria della Salute, a body with two slugs in the back of the head has been pulled from the icy waters. The victim is a woman. To the dismay of the police, she is dressed in the sacred robes of a Catholic priest—a desecration that quickly becomes known as the Abomination.

Working her first murder case, newly promoted Captain Kat Tapo of the Carabinieri embarks on a labyrinthine voyage that soon proves as elusive and confusing as the city's twisting backstreets. Her investigation leads from a crumbling asylum on a deserted island to the impenetrable complex of American military bases ringing the medieval city—and deeper, into an eerie virtual Venice that is both alien and familiar.

The influential and highly secretive simulated world of holds the city's secrets, dark knowledge that reaches into the highest levels of government and the church, involving its most influential figures. The site's founder is a notorious hacker and the scion of one of Venice's oldest families—a man already convicted of cybercrimes whose life is threatened by an anonymous group determined to silence him and destroy his virtual city.

Just when every lead seems to send a frustrated Kat in a new direction, the various trails go cold, evidence goes missing, and the case is officially shut down. What follows is the unraveling of a dark conspiracy whose roots go back seventy years, revelations that will test Kat's loyalties and remind the dedicated cop of a simple truth: that unless old crimes are punished, corrupt forces will continue to repeat their mortal sins. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This beautifully complicated thriller, the first of a trilogy that is set primarily in Venice (both the real city and a perfect 3-D virtual re-creation), follows three protagonists as they investigate the murders of a woman dressed in priest's vestments and of another who had made a Freedom of Information request at a military base in Italy. Carabiniere captain Kat Tapo follows clues that lead first to a deserted island near Venice, once a cemetery and later the site of an asylum, where mysterious symbols match the tattoos found on the woman priest, and then to a website,, where identities are hidden behind carnival masks. Holly Boland, a U.S. Army second lieutenant, unearths possible NATO involvement in illegal activities that stoked the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. And Daniele Barbo, a brilliant but mentally unsettled hacker, enters the world he created, impenetrably anonymous, in an attempt to save himself and help the two women as they face attempts to silence them forever. VERDICT A brilliant blend of fascinating story lines, serious issues, impeccable research, gripping intrigue, and engaging characters, Holt's debut is eminently satisfying from start to finish. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy intelligent thrillers (think Joseph Kanon). [See Prepub Alert, 12/13/12.]—Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
Publishers Weekly
At the start of British author Holt’s diverting debut, Katerina Tapo, an officer in the Carabinieri, races to a crime scene in the heart of Venice. High tide has washed a body with two bullet wounds in the head onto the steps of a landmark church. It’s Kat’s first murder case—a case complicated by the discovery that the victim is female and dressed in the garb of a Catholic priest. Meanwhile, at a nearby American military base, 2nd Lt. Holly Boland’s search for missing documents sets her on the scent of a mystery that compels the two women to team up. Clues to their questions are hidden at, a beguiling cyber-Venice created by a rich hacker for an unknown purpose. Holt captures the allure of Venice and its creative cyber-counterpart, and creates two forceful if bland protagonists in Kat and Holly. The author gets carried away by throwing mystery on top of mystery, but, well, that’s part of the fun. Agent: Caradoc King, A.P. Watt (U.K.). (June)
Chicago Tribune
“Don’t be deceived by the title, The Abomination. There’s nothing unreal about Jonathan Holt’s excellent first mystery…. [He] writes in a deft engaging fashion.… The Abomination leaves you hungry for more.”
“[A] tantalizing debut, a masterful melding of religious mystery, political intrigue and just a bit of fantasy/sci-fi.”
Marilyn Stasio
“Venetians love to dress up in costumes and masks.… Holt puts a breathtaking spin on this charming custom … by inventing Carnivia, an elaborate computer game. .…There is something truly haunting about those glimpses into the mysterious shadow world .”
Booklist (starred review)
“This remarkable debut novel… [is] a multi-stranded conspiracy thriller with plenty of pop. Think Dan Brown without the clunky prose and the pompous PhD hero but with the fascinating mix of history, paranoia, and real-live terror (drones on your tail).”
“Speedy, clever…. [A] very fun beach (or boat) read for fans of thrillers.”
Kirkus Reviews
In the first novel of a trilogy set in Venice, an Italian policewoman and a female U.S. Army officer investigate the murders of two women who threatened to expose dark secrets about America's involvement in the Bosnian War. Ambitious Carabinieri Capt. Katerina Tapo is on her first homicide case. Her American counterpart, 2nd Lt. Holly Boland, who grew up in Pisa as an Army brat, has just been posted to Italy. A young Croatian woman shockingly dressed in the robes of a Catholic priest and tattooed with mysterious symbols washes up in the Grand Canal, and a female American activist probing illicit U.S. support of Croatia in the '90s war is found with two bullets in her head. Powerful interests in Venice will do anything to hide the truth about U.S. operations in the former Yugoslavia, where Serbian and Croatian girls were forced into prostitution and tortured. After their paths intersect, Kat and Holly are targeted themselves. This all takes place under the watchful eye of Daniele Barbo, the genius bad boy of social networking, who created Carnivia, a 3-D simulation of Venice where members meet through avatars and share secrets. Whether Daniele is out to help or hinder Kat and Holly is one of the mysteries of this book, which has more than enough plot and well-drawn characters to stir interest in the sequels. The Carnivia site is such a clever invention an entire novel could be set inside its "walls." A skillfully rendered debut by a London ad man.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Carnivia Trilogy Series , #1
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1 MB

Meet the Author

Jonathan Holt studied English literature at Oxford and is now the creative director of an advertising agency. He lives in London.

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The Abomination 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
bookaholicNC More than 1 year ago
I am a big fan of Donna Leon, so was excited to read another series set in Venice.  VERY disappointed. The books jumps all over the place, the internet, religion, witches, secret societies, the US army, spies......I read about a quarter of the book and gave up. Didn't much care about the characters or what really happened. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the longest time a book has been in spotlight. At least 8 months. I think it's time to move on to a new selection.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great start for the author. Suspense, and you get some aspects of the culture in Italy along with how they might handle crime today. I thought there would be more religious involvement like a Dan Brown and the story diverted to ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Overall a good start, not great but a summer read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And frankly too silly to read let alone to be here for two weeks. By the way there are women priests celebrating mass as vicars in angilican church as well as luther which they are now co joined