In the heart of Venice, a woman is sacrificed to a forgotten god, sparking a mystery lost for thousands of years.
Dr. Penelope Bryne is ridiculed by the academic community for her quest to find the remnants of Atlantis, but when an ancient and mysterious script is found at a murder site, she flies to Venice determined to help the police before the killer strikes again.
Penelope has spent her entire life trying to ignore the unexplainable and magical history of Atlantis, but when she meets the enigmatic Alexis Donato, everything she believes will be challenged. Little does she know, Alexis has spent the last three years doing his best to sabotage Penelope’s career so doesn’t learn the truth—Atlantis had seven magicians who survived, and who he has a duty to protect.
As Alexis draws her into the darkly, seductive world of magic and history, Penelope will have to use her heart as well as her head if she is to find the answers she seeks.
With the new MOSE system due to come online, and Carnivale exploding around them, Penelope and Alexis will have to work together to stop the killer and prevent dark magic from pulling Venice into the sea.
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The wind WAS howling off the canal as Inspector Marco Dandolo wrapped his coat tightly around himself and lit a cigarette. He'd been trying to quit — his third time that year using Isabella's hypnotist — and it had been going well until he'd received a call about two distraught Americans. The unfortunate students had been taking photos of the canal entrances when they had seen a body hanging inside.
"What do you think, Inspecttori?" Beppe asked nervously. As one of the Polizia di Quartiere for Santa Croce, Beppe had been the first officer the Americans had alerted. They had been loud and hysterical, and by the time Marco had arrived, Beppe was pale with sweat and breathing heavily.
"Your first body?" Marco asked.
"Si," Beppe admitted. Marco passed him his packet of cigarettes and Beppe lit one gratefully. "I never thought people could be so horrible to each other."
Marco grunted. "I've seen some terrible murders, but this ... this is something else."
"A good thing they have Le Doge Cane on the case," Beppe said brightly. Marco smiled weakly at him.
Le Doge Cane was a nickname he had acquired as much for his famous ancestor, Doge Francesco Dandolo, known as the dog after he chained himself while petitioning the pope to remove Venice's excommunication, as for Marco's ability to focus on a case like a bloodhound. He hated it but did his best not to let the banter between officers get to him. As reputations went, it wasn't a bad one.
They finished their cigarettes in silence before ducking back under the police tape, walking along the narrow strip of stone and into the canal entrance of the palazzo.
"Have we found out who owns the palazzo yet?" Marco asked a nearby female police officer. She was young and pretty, and he always managed to forget her name.
"The Tintoretto's, a celebrity couple," she replied.
"Are they here yet?"
"No, but their alibi is solid. They're in Milano where she's doing a photo shoot for Vogue."
"Does anybody else have access to the house?"
"Only their sixty-year-old housekeeper who didn't see or hear anything."
"Grazie," Marco replied, waving her on.
Steeling himself with a deep breath, he finally looked up at the body hanging in front of him.
The woman was naked, a bull's head pulled over her own. Her arms had been stretched out and tied above her head. In one hand she held a goblet, in the other an elaborate Greek urn painted with sea creatures.
An umbilical cord fell from her vagina, terminating at an embryonic sac and calf fetus resting in a copper pan at water level. The victim's heart had been removed, but the wound had also been cleaned. On the stone wall behind the body were three massive symbols encircled by a script unlike any Marco had ever seen.
"It looks a little like Sanskrit, but it's wrong," a masked forensics officer commented. He and the rest of the forensics team were working quickly to beat the next high tide, due in two hours. "I studied some of it for my degree, but this looks too jagged, almost like a mutated cuneiform."
Marco pulled out his phone and took multiple photos of the wall. "I might know someone who can help."
* * *
IT WAS midnight when Doctor Alessa Christiano's phone rang in her office at Sapienza in Rome.
"Pronto?" she answered, barely looking up from her computer screen where she was composing a lecture on the Roman conquest of Egypt.
"Alessa, I'm glad you are awake," a painfully familiar voice said. "I should've known you would still be working."
"Says the man also still working. What do you want, Marco?" Her exlover's voice didn't sound drunk, but she detected a note of trouble in it.
"I need your expertise, Dottore. I've emailed you some photos I need you to look at."
"Marco, I really don't have time —"
"It's a case, Alessa," he insisted. "This is the Polizia de Strato asking, not Marco Dandolo the coglione.Per favore bella, a woman is dead."
"Fine, fine, I'll take a look," Alessa sighed and clicked through the pages on her screen to bring up her emails.
"I need to warn you, the pictures —" Marco began, but she had already opened the first one.
"Mio Dio," Alessa cried, crossing herself twice. "Who would do such a thing?"
"A sick bastard. Click on the other attachments. There is some script I'm hoping you can decipher; it might give me an idea who did this."
Alessa downloaded and scrolled through the other photos, zooming in on the graffitied wall.
"It's a hoax."
"What do you mean?" Marco asked.
"I mean apart from the three main symbols, which are alchemical, the rest of the script is completely made up."
"What do the three main symbols mean?"
"I don't know alchemy, Marco. Look them up. I've seen them before, but the rest is bullshit."
"How do you know?"
"A few years ago a fragment of a stone tablet was found near Crete. It had a similar sort of disjointed cuneiform style of writing. Your wall looks like a fanatic has created a full alphabet from it and finger painted it on his murder site." Alessa looked at the next picture. "It's all gibberish, Marco."
There was a long pause and then the sound of a metal lighter flicking open from the other line. They'd broken up years ago but, whenever Alessa smelled MS tobacco, she still thought of him. "I see your sister's hypnotist has failed again. You need to stop paying her."
"She's Isabella's wife's sister. If I don't let her hypnotize me, they will try and set me up on a date with her."
"If she were any good, she could just hypnotize you into sleeping with her."
"You said fanatic," Marco commented thoughtfully. "Why that word?"
"Only someone obsessed with the legends would go to that much effort to create a full alphabet over an artifact that doesn't prove a thing." She rubbed the lenses of her glasses before putting them back on. "Worse than a fanatic, I think you have a true believer."
"In what? What legend?"
Alessa couldn't hold in a snort. "The Lost City. Atlantis."
"And you say they found evidence of it?" asked Marco, sounding not at all phased by her revelation.
"No, I said they found a fragment of a stone tablet. The person who found it claimed it was evidence that Atlantis existed. She wanted funding to do an underwater dig at the site."
"Nothing. No professional scholar would take Atlantis seriously. She is a pariah in her field." Alessa shook her head. "It's a shame. Both her parents are brilliant scholars. Anyway, there were some who believed her. They were more the New Age crowd, and a few mythologists hunting the dream."
"And you think one of them could be our killer?"
"I don't know, Marco. The only place I've ever seen anything like this was an attachment to the paper about the Tablet."
"Where can I get a copy of it?"
"I can email it to you." Alessa took one last look at the mutilated woman and shook her head. "Her contact details should be at the bottom of the paper if you want to talk to her yourself. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful, mio amico."
"You have been an incredible help to me tonight. I knew you were the right person to call. Next time you are in Venezia, I will buy you the best meal of your life," he promised.
Despite their separation, they still ate together whenever she was in Venice, or he was in Rome. Inevitably, it always ended with them in bed together that night, and by morning, agreeing how it was better they had broken up.
"It's a deal. I hope you catch them soon, Marco," Alessa said solemnly.
"Grazie Dottore." He hung up, and she sent him the paper as promised before heading out to midnight mass.
Alessa wasn't God's most pious servant, but after seeing the bull-headed woman, she couldn't shake the taint of evil from her mind.CHAPTER 2
Breathe slowly, take in the sound of nothing, Penelope told herself as the weights on her belt drew her down into the dark blue water. She adjusted her mouthpiece and goggles more comfortably before checking her watch. Beginning now, she would have two hours of blessed silence with nothing but tropical fish for company.
Penelope had just started her first holiday in two years when a friend working at James Cook University in Cairns had called to tell her that some coins had been brought in to his office by a pair of free divers.
"They look Phoenician, Pen," he'd revealed. "I know you have your theories about Egyptians and Phoenicians coming this far so I thought I'd let you know. See if you're interested."
Get your ass back on the horse, Pen, her best friend and flatmate Carolyn had said. You just need a win.
She had watched Penelope's downward spiral after losing out on investors and grants for the past two years. Carolyn was an academic. She knew the score when it came to research funding, but when Penelope had mentioned the coins and a trip to the warm sunshine of Queensland, Carolyn had all but packed her bag for her. Hunting Phoenician coins on the Great Barrier Reef seemed exactly like the right kind of holiday.
Still chasing ridiculous dreams, Penelope. When are you ever going to grow up? Her father's voice echoed in her head.
Penelope ground her teeth around the rubber of her regulator. It had been six months since their argument, but the words still stung. Professor Stuart Bryne was known for this prowess as a lecturer, but what people didn't know was that he had practiced those skills by lecturing Penelope.
"He's only worried about you," her mother, Kiri, had consoled her that afternoon when Penelope had called in tears. Kiri was back in her native New Zealand working on her newest book about gender roles in Maori culture.
"He's worried I'm going to tarnish his reputation. He's an anthropologist, for God's sake. We aren't even in the same field!" Penelope snapped. "He needs to calm his shit and let me live my own life."
"Hey! Don't you use that kind of language about your father," Kiri defended. "He loves you and doesn't want you throwing your career away."
"They thought Schliemann was crazy, too, until he found Troy. I know it exists, Mom. I can feel it. It's like an extra heartbeat inside my chest. It's mine. I know it is."
"Maybe it's not the right time for you to find it yet," sighed Kiri. "Take a job teaching for a while until you can figure out your next steps."
Like usual, Penelope only decided to take her mother's advice once she'd run out of other options and lost any hope of getting funding.
At least under the water, the only thing she needed to worry about was drowning.
Penelope breathed slowly through her regulator, counting down from ten to soothe her anxiety. There's nothing around or over you. Straight dive. Nothing to get caught on.
Three years ago, she'd nearly drowned while diving through an old ship, and it had taken her months to get the courage to put a pair of goggles on again. Penelope hated being afraid of anything, so she'd quickly forced herself back into the ocean, starting small with lifeguard courses before moving on to snorkeling, and then finally back to deep diving. As long as she had open water, and wasn't moving through wrecks or caves, her fear of drowning remained in check.
It had been on her first real dive since the incident that Penelope had discovered the corner of a stone tablet. It was on a research trip to Crete, and she thought her luck couldn't have been better. She was wrong.
And didn't that just send my anxiety off in a whole new direction. She thought the Atlantis Tablet would be the key to her Troy, but all it'd done was set her up for more disappointment and frustration.
One of the free drivers, Sam, swam past her, making her start. Phoenician coins, Pen, no mysterious tablets with mixed origins. It didn't matter that finding Phoenician coins in Australia would launch a whole new line of inquiry for her to be ridiculed over. These mysteries keep finding you, not the other way around.
Sam waved at her and pointed to an outcrop of coral and rock before he shot up to the surface for another breath of air. Penelope shut out her thoughts, letting the eerie silence of the ocean fill her as she searched the rocks, brushing the seabed with her gloved hands.
Three hours underwater produced four startled stingrays and two tarnished coins and Penelope couldn't have been happier.
By the time she got back to her hotel, she felt calmer than she had in months. Her chestnut hair was a riot of salty curls, and her body was physically exhausted. She showered and made sure her heavy silver ring was secure on her finger. It was a replica of the Phaistos Disc, and she had bought it on the same trip to Crete that she had found the Tablet. The Disc had been discovered in a Minoan temple in 1908 and researchers still had no idea what it meant. It was a reminder that some mysteries fought against being solved.
After pouring herself a glass of wine, Penelope opened her laptop. Despite being on a semester break until March, Penelope's university inbox had a way of becoming flooded with emails if she didn't clear it out daily.
Her Atlantis Tablet had gained her notoriety with all the wrong people. The mystery of Atlantis called to ufologists, New Agers, and Lemurian theorists alike. They all wanted to know about the magic, about the secret hidden knowledge the Atlanteans had allegedly possessed. It felt like Penelope spent half of every day emailing the enthusiasts back politely to say that she had no new information for them.
In her defense, Penelope had done everything she could not to get caught up in what she couldn't prove. She had stuck to facts, scraping away at the added mystery of the few primary sources she had, such as the one from Plato, trying to get to the heart of the mythic civilization.
Forever the realist, her father did his best to disregard the esoteric. The fact that Penelope's dream had been to find Atlantis since she was ten years old had caused him countless headaches. He couldn't look at her bookshelves, crammed with as many mythology collections and fantasy novels as academic textbooks and journals, without rolling his eyes.
"You're just like your grandmother," he often muttered in his Irish brogue. "She was mad by the time she died, leaving milk out for brownies and God knows what else." At times like that, Penelope regretted never having the chance to meet her grandmother. Both her parents were painfully atheist, believing only what could be proven by scientific theory.
Scrolling through her inbox, Penelope deleted the university newsletter and staff room spam until an unknown name caught her attention.
Who on earth is Marco Dandolo?
She opened the email, silently hoping he wasn't another crazy person.
Dear Doctor Bryne,
My associate, Doctor Alessa Christiano, gave me your paper on the Atlantis Tablet. She believes you might be able to assist in identifying markings I encountered this evening at a crime scene. Please forgive me for contacting you so directly, but our experts are at a loss and time is particularly short regarding this case.
Please find the attached photo of a sample of the writing. I would appreciate any help you might be able to provide.
Regards, Inspector Marco Dandolo
A crime scene? Penelope read the email twice. The footer had his official titles, the police station, and its crest. It wasn't spam. Penelope prayed it wasn't a virus before opening the attachment. The glass of wine fell from her hand, splattering red all over the tiles.
"Impossible. This can't ..." Penelope zoomed in, trying to get a closer look, but the resolution of the photo only blurred. Five minutes later Penelope picked up her phone and called Carolyn.
"I knew you couldn't go three days without ringing!" Carolyn said triumphantly, "What's up, Bryne? Have another panic attack caused by your shit brain father?"
"Carolyn, don't freak out"— Penelope took a steady breath —"but I'm going to Venice."CHAPTER 3
The lecture room at the State Library was filled with students, scholars, and the curious. Penelope squeezed her notes together and tried to remind herself that this was not the first time she'd been forced to stand in front of people.
"You're going to be fine," Carolyn had assured her. She had a doctorate in Esoteric Religions and knew a tough crowd when she saw one. "This is a great turn out, Pen. The more people who know how brilliant you are, the more money they will give you to continue your research."
"Thanks, Caro," Penelope replied, her mouth dry. She tightened her ponytail and smoothed the lapels of her blazer again.
It was the first time she was going to present her paper on the Atlantis Tablet, and she was a bundle of tightly wound nerves. There were people in the audience who could help fund her dig off the islands of Crete. She had to be brave and confident. The Tablet demanded it of her.
Carolyn gave her a helpful shove after she was announced, and Penelope mumbled her thanks to the university and the State Library for allowing her to use the space for the lecture.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Immortal City"
Copyright © 2019 Amy Kuivalainen.
Excerpted by permission of BHC Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this novel, but the blend of a supernatural police procedural and dark academia made this an unusual book in the best way. This novel is steeped deeply in the history of Venice, a setting that comes to life and seems as equally magical as the not-so-mythical Atlantis. There was obviously a lot of heartfelt research that went into this novel and it shows. The author puts exquisite detail both into describing the beautiful Venice, its culture, and history, and the horrifying ritual murders that plague it. This novel does a great job of balancing the enchanting magic that sweeps readers off their feet and the dark murders that propel the plot forward. Penelope is a great main character with infectious enthusiasm for mystery and the wonder of the world around her, and it's easy to get caught up alongside her as she delves deep into the Atlantean history and magic. She's self-assured, brave, along with being an expert in her field, and a character you really want to root for. Her love interest is a powerful magician, but she's still capable of taking care of herself. The romance is sweet if a bit heavy-handed and the novel is sometimes bogged down by a rather large cast of characters that don't seem to have a lot to do, but overall it was a good read. Definitely for fans of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code series and those interested in seeing history intertwine with the fantastical. Much thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a digital ARC of this book.
A dark and compelling story with a fast pase. It took a while before I got into the story. I guess that the fast pace made it a bit harder for me to truly connect with the characters from the beginning. But when I did, I could not put this book down!
I'm fascinated by the Atlantis myth and this book was perfect for me. I found it fast paced, full of humor, well written and entertaining. The cast of characters is well developed and the world building is interesting. I look forward to reading other books by this author. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
This was a really fantastic story - in every sense of the word. Kuivalainen has created a marvelous world out of the mystery of Venice, which is a magical enough place without immortals walking among us... The world-building and backstory development here are very well done and really set the stage for the mysteries, revelations, and intrigue to develop. It had a little more of a romance feel at times than I usually prefer, but the originality of the Atlanteans and the magic surrounding their enclave made up for it for me. I haven't seen any indication that this is a first-in-series, but it certainly set itself up for a continuation if the author decides to write in that direction - and I hope she does, as I found this world compelling and engaging and would really like to spend more time here! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my obligation-free review copy.
A fast paced story with mystery and fantasy. Strong characters mixed with magic and love. Throw in the mystery of Atlantis and you have quite a story!! It left me wanting more!! Thank you for the early copy!
Dr Penelope Byrne has become a pariah on the outskirts of the academic world, ridiculed for her theories on the lost island of Atlantis. When symbols appear at a Venetian murder scene that match symbols she believes belong to Atlantis, Penelope goes to help the investigation. But she doesn't come close to the truth until meeting the mysterious Alexis Donavato. He may be able to help find the murderer, but only by exposing new secrets: that the city of Venice, and the rest of the world, are in danger from an evil Alexis thought drown with Atlantis ten thousand years ago. Penelope is a strong, stubborn woman who refuses to stay down when her parents, her colleagues, and the academic world knock her down. She thinks of herself as an ordinary, risk-adverse person, but can't deny the part of her imagination that wishes magic and dreams were real, and that there is something special she is supposed to do with her life. So when a Venetian detective asks for her help on a case, Pen is on a flight to Venice before she thinks about it. Penelope is a wonderful heroine- pragmatic, logical, yet a dreamer with an open mind about the world around her. She accepts that things aren't always what they seem, and more importantly, she accepts that love and fate can arrive when they are least expected. She wasn't looking for a man, but when she meets Alexis she is willing to accept that not all life's plans fall out the way we expect. Alexis is a man who takes things seriously: protect his people, protect Atlantis' secrets, and stay away from mortals. He's seen death and destruction so often over the years he can't see himself as anything but a jaded warrior. But Penelope gets under his skin before he knows what's happened, and he is helpless to deny the incredible pull between them. As he helps Penelope solve the mystery that brought her to Venice, he realizes that the threat is worse than mortals can imagine, and he and the magicians of Atlantis need to work past their fears to protect the world again. The Immortal City is a fantastic book that gives magic lovers an entirely new world to enjoy, and leaves you waiting breathlessly to see what will happen next. Well written, edge of your seat action, and marvelous chemistry between Alexis and Penelope kept me reading until I had devoured the book in one sitting, and was only disappointed that there wasn't a sequel out yet to go on to! Full of delightful secondary characters that I can't wait to find out more about (I especially loved Marco and hope he shows up in more of the series! Loved his "Venetian" version of CPR at the end!), magic to learn, and pasts to explore, the Magicians of Venice promises to be a must-read series for fantasy lovers! I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Atlantis, magic, a mysterious man who is sabotaging the protagonist and a murder case that seems somehow connected to all the aspects mentioned before: sounded like an entertaining read to me. And it was … in the beginning. I quite enjoyed the scholarly approach due to Penelope being an academic and all the references to history and myths. In that sense, the book reminded me a bit of Deborah Harkness’s trilogy at first. Another thing I liked was the feeling of being transported to Italy. In the end, the story, sadly, lacked in depth. The characters, the magic system, Atlantis, the investigation of the murder case, all these things I got to observe from very far away. I felt strangely detached from what was going on and I think there was put too much into one book. A lot of the things happening were rushed through or developed far too quickly such as the relationships, the final fight or the acceptance of magic existing. The more or less open ending suggests that there might be a sequel but I am not really interested in reading it. I guess I expected to be surprised and dragged into the story far more than was actually the case. So I am having a hard time recommending this book. Feel free to try it, it simply wasn’t for me.
This book was received as an ARC from BHC Press in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I really enjoyed all of the brilliant wordplay and the enticing story that just put the pieces together in this plot. I have never been to Venice and after reading this book it just makes me want to go there even more. I loved how Amy Kuivalainen treated Venice similar to the lost city of Atlantis comparing the significance and the impact the city had on history. Incorporating dark magic and the characters of Penelope and Alexis made this story even more interesting to the point that I could not put this book down and had to finish it right away. I know our readers will relate and love this book as much as I did and it will be a huge hit with our community. We will consider adding this to our Fiction collection at our library. We wish we could award infinite stars but the most we can give is 5 so we give this 5 stars.
The Immortal City is a mythical elevator ride to an enchanted world full of magic and mystery. An original mix of fantasy, mystery, and even romance, the story will have you happily staying up late to find out what happens next. In this first novel (of a promised series), we meet Dr. Penelope Bryne. She is an academic who is struggling to build her reputation while maintaining her determination to find the lost island of Atlantis. When she is called to Venice to help solve a series of murders, her eyes are opened up to a whole new world that is as mysterious as it is dangerous. What I liked: The plot appeals to people who believe in mystical and magical places, and the many gods worshipped in those societies. Nothing embodies that more than the lost city of Atlantis, whose demise created stories of mythical proportions. The Immortal City is fast-paced. It is a book that once you start, you won't think to look up from the page until hours have passed and you are already halfway through the story. When you read as much as many of us do, this is a refreshing aspect. An exotic city local fits perfectly with the story. Venice is a romantic city within what was once the Roman Empire. The use of this local brings to mind Dan Brown's Davinci Codes, but I love the solving of puzzles, and the novel keeps you guessing in that aspect. What I Wish A more thorough description of the magicians' home would have helped me to visualize it better. On the flip side, more exposition would slow down the pace of the novel, but I would have sacrificed a faster pace at times to be able to visualize the home better, which is ordinary yet fantastical. The dialogue flows better at specific points in the novel than others. Conversation can flow smoothly, just as in real life, or it can be forced. There are several points in the story when the dialogue is forced, though this did not detract from my overall love of the book. To Read or Not to Read The Immortal City is destined to be a great new series in urban fantasy fiction. It will entertain and delight you as you join Dr. Penelope Byrne in discovering what happened to Atlantis. Be assured that you will happily volunteer to keep reading long into the night. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.