Picks and Pans Review: Venetian Mask

updated 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mickey Friedman

This kaleidoscopic, satisfyingly intricate murder mystery is set in Venice during its annual winter carnival. Six friends from Paris devise a game to see how well they really know each other. They decide to attend Carnival dressed in costumes that best represent their true selves. The participants arrive separately in Venice, having agreed to meet at a certain time near the Campanile in the Piazza San Marco to see whether they can identify each other. The game abruptly ends when Brian, a young American disguised as Medusa, is murdered and dumped in a canal. His Florida-bred wife, Sally, thinking she may have been the intended victim, is forced to change her disguise and hide out among the Venetian revelers. She's taken underwing by a Venetian nobleman dressed as a harlequin, who escorts her to the Scoundrels' Ball and on a pre-dawn excursion to Torcello. The exotic, labyrinthian setting of Venice, with its Fellini-ish cast of costumed characters superimposed upon it, provides plenty in the way of suspense and entertainment. Friedman, the author of such novels as Hurricane Season and Paper Phoenix, has turned out something that's a brainy, psychologically astute cut above most mysteries. (Scribners, $18.95)

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