With everything that has happened in 2020, you might think it was the worst year ever. But it has been nothing compared to 1348 in Europe, and specifically for the city of Venice. That year began with a 6.9 magnitude earthquake across most of Italy. It triggered a Tsunami in the Adriatic that drained the Venice Lagoon before the massive wave crashed into the city, multiplying the earthquake’s destruction and washing many citizens out to sea. Within days, the worst pandemic of all time arrived; after a few months, about a third of Venice’s population had died of the Bubonic Plague.
In The Quarant, Graham Bullen has woven a fascinating tale of international intrigue into a background of divine destruction. Malin Le Cordier is a British maritime trader with a thriving business in Venice, recruited by the English Crown to help overthrow the Venetian government. Throughout his life, Malin’s good character has earned him the trust and love of a circle of capable friends, and he has engaged some of them in the scheme. As the day chosen for their ultimate action approaches, they face increasing peril. A key co-conspirator disappears, and there is a risk he might expose them all under torture. Malin himself fends off an attempted assassination, yet the power behind these attacks remains in the shadows; it may not be the Doge and his Councils but an agent of revenge from Malin’s past.
There are few rules in this game, and one never knows who they can trust. Businesses, reputations, and lives are at risk, with no guarantee of a happy ending. To survive, Malin needs help from his friends to reveal and unravel the threads of greed and hostility that tie their fates together. And even that might not be enough to avoid death in all its forms.
Bullen has done a masterful job of making the past feel real, and his descriptions of 14th Century Venice are immersive. For anyone who has had the opportunity to explore this timeless city, the calles and canals will seem so familiar that you’ll easily picture yourself there.
Malin’s backstory is told through flashbacks to his childhood in England, his escape to Antwerp and apprenticeship, maturation, then eventual recruitment into King Edward III’s plot. We meet a rich tapestry of characters, events, and locales that would provide ample material for several engaging prequels.
The Quarant is an absorbing story of intrigue, a first-class spy novel with a wonderfully flawed hero and a solid storyline. The plot it describes is fictional yet plausible when placed within historical events. I loved it!