Book Review: Ashes in Venice by Gojan Nikolich

A psychopath with size 16 shoes, nursing home hookers and an irreverent Las Vegas homicide detective with a gambling habit set the tone for this off-beat tale of revenge and retribution.

Blackjack addict Frank Savic is deeply in debt and facing family problems when he’s asked to delay his retirement to catch a vigilante killer who murders other murderers in a manner the veteran cop has never seen.

While dead bodies stack up in quick succession, the motorcycle-riding policeman gets reluctantly involved with a desperate mother who will do anything to get justice for her dead son.

Savic, his investigation complicated by a suspected FBI coverup and a prison bribery scandal, is also unaware that the quirky murderer might also be the solution to his own financial and domestic dilemma.

Add the brooding backdrop of Venice, Italy…and a vengeful killer who reads Shakespeare, and you have a teasing psychological thriller where surgical bone saws and spiders are just tools of the trade.

Yes, there are spiders.

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from Reedsy. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

Detective Savic is about to retire, and this is his last case. He’s looking for who he believes to be a vigilante killing murderers.

The two main characters are Savic and Colt, the murderer he is looking for. Both characters are well developed, and I was able to connect with both of them, even Colt.

Savic is dealing with a mountain of debt and a wife who is in a home because she is sick and losing her memory. His days are taken up with worry about his debt, his wife, and his case.

Colt is intelligent and methodical. He knows what he’s doing, and this is a mission for him. The way he kills his victims is quite different, and I had to cringe at what he did to his last victim, although he deserved it.

There are a lot of characters but they were easy to keep track of, especially since so many of them die along the way (that sounds horrible!). One character that I need to mention is Felicia Mendez, the mother of one of the murder victims, who is determined to find someone to kill her child’s murderer. She’s a bit “out there” and some of her antics were pretty bizarre. She wasn’t my favorite character, but I enjoyed reading about her.

This book needs proofreading. There were minor things throughout, but I have to recommend proofreading when something is distracting. In this case, mister in the lower case, such as “mister Jones” is used often rather than “Mr. Jones.”

Despite the need for proofreading, this was a good read. The description of The Venetian in Las Vegas was spot on, and the descriptions of Venice were great. Although I’ve never been there, I could picture it. There is a lot of suspense, and the murder descriptions are not for the faint of heart. The second half of the book was a page turner and difficult to put down.

About the Author

Gojan Nikolich is a former Chicago newspaper reporter, editor and public relations agency executive. He graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature from DePaul University, served as a U.S. Army sergeant and worked as a journalist in Korea and Japan. He lives in Colorado.