We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


City of Masks: 8 Mystery Books Set in Venice

There are bound to be mysteries in a city where people like to keep their identities protected. 

gold and red venetian carnival mask among a pile of other colorful masks
  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: AXP Photography / Unsplash

Venice is known as The City of Masks.

Renowned for their atmosphere of mystery, it’s no surprise that the city’s crumbling palazzos, winding streets, narrow alleyways, and labyrinthine system of canals have proved fertile ground for crime writers. 

Here are eight mystery books set in Venice to captivate you.

The Aspern Papers: (with Biographical Introduction)

The Aspern Papers: (with Biographical Introduction)

By Henry James

James’ slim novella (often paired with his chilly ghost story The Turn of the Screw) tells the story of a conniving bibliophile (the book’s extremely unreliable narrator) who travels to Venice to inveigle his way into the household of Juliana Bordereau, former lover of great and recently deceased U.S. poet Jeffery Aspern.

His aim is to get his hands on a packet of valuable letters and he’s prepared to do just about anything to achieve his goal, including seducing the daughter of the house. 

However, in the strange and eerie environs of decaying nineteenth century Venice, the tables are slowly turned on him. 

Don't Look Now: and Other Stories

Don't Look Now: and Other Stories

By Daphne du Maurier

The Queen of the Psychological Thriller is at her spine-tingling best in this novella about a grieving couple, Laura and John, who travel to Venice in the hope of rebuilding their lives after the death of their only child. 

In a down-at-heel guest house they encounter two old women who claim to have special powers. 

Soon the confusing streets and abandoned buildings of Venice are sucking them into a series of increasingly strange and violent encounters that culminates with one of the most shocking plot twists in all of mystery fiction. 



By Joseph Kanon

U.S. Army War Crimes investigator Adam Miller arrives in Venice in 1946 to visit his estranged mother and try to shake off the horrors he has confronted in Nazi Germany. 

Venice has been ripped apart by War and the aftermath of the fall of Fascism and is hiding horrific secrets of its own. 

As he struggles with familial life and his own troubled mind, Miller becomes embroiled in a world filled with people scarred by recent atrocities and the men and women who perpetrated them. 

Told in Kanon’s characteristically spare and elegant prose, it’s a satisfyingly complex murder mystery as well as a brilliant examination of the fine, blurred line between good and evil. 

Dead Lagoon: An Aurelio Zen Mystery

Dead Lagoon: An Aurelio Zen Mystery

By Michael Dibdin

The fourth in Dibdin’s superb Aurelio Zen series sees the cynical, disillusioned Rome-based detective returning to Venice, the city of his birth, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an American-Yugoslav millionaire. 

Written in 1994, Dibdin’s darkly witty tale of property fraud, family feuds, and far-right politics, portrays a Venice far removed from the tourist brochures—a city of stagnant, stinking ponds, moldering palazzos and fiscal corruption. 

It may not make you want to holiday there, but it’s a great setting for a crime novel. 

The Borgia Portrait (A Venetian Mystery Book 2)

The Borgia Portrait (A Venetian Mystery Book 2)

By David Hewson

The second instalment of Hewson’s promising Venetian series came out in 2024. 

In it retired archivist turned implacable sleuth Arthur Clover is hired by Lizzie Hawker to dig into a family mystery. 

Hawker’s mother, an Italian countess, went missing thirty years ago. At the same time, a priceless portrait of Lucrezia Borgia disappeared from the family’s palatial, but toppling Venetian home. 

With her father now dead and the palazzo in her hands Hawker and Clover try to unravel the mystery with bloody and surprising consequences. 

The Venetian Game: (Venice Book 1)

The Venetian Game: (Venice Book 1)

By Philip Gwynne Jones

Like Donna Leon, Welsh crime writer Jones lives in Venice and his knowledge of the city adds to the authenticity and sparkle of his work. 

The Venetian Game is the first of what is currently a seven-book series featuring Nathan Sutherland. 

In it the blameless British translator finds himself unwittingly dragged into the savage world of the Moro brothers, Venetian twins whose family feud is played out—often violently—in the shady world of international art theft and forgery. 

The Spy of Venice: A William Shakespeare Mystery (William Shakespeare Mysteries Book 1)

The Spy of Venice: A William Shakespeare Mystery (William Shakespeare Mysteries Book 1)

By Benet Brandreth

British actor-author Brandreth has a passion for William Shakespeare and has embarked on a series of mysteries featuring the young Will, in the days before he had become a playwright. 

In this rip-roaring installment, the young Shakespeare travels to Venice (There are plenty of references to his celebrated play set in the city) on a secret diplomatic mission for Queen Elizabeth I. 

He’s seduced by the city’s wild masque balls and bawdy social life, but soon he’s distracted from the enjoyment by a team of assassins bent on killing him and bringing down England. 

Witty, raucous, and filled with clever re-workings of Shakespearean quotes, The Spy of Venice is a whole lot of fun. 

Death at La Fenice

Death at La Fenice

By Donna Leon

Nobody writes about Venice with quite the same passion and love as Donna Leon, a U.S. resident of the city from 1985 to 2015 (she still spends one week a month there).

Leon has so far written 32 mysteries featuring hard-working and diligent detective Commissario Guido Brunetti –a cop who, in a dramatic departure from the norm is well-adjusted, happily married, and harbors no dark secrets. 

In this, the first of the series from 1992, Brunetti is called in when world-famous conductor Helmut Wellhauer is poisoned during a performance of La Traviata at the Venice Opera House. 

Featured image: AXP Photography / Unsplash