I spent last fall living in Venice, which is less an ordinary city than a fantasy of bridges, domes, water, and light that has barely changed (in appearance, at least) since its glory days almost 500 years ago. Sarah Dunant's new historical novel, IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN, is set mostly in this cryptic and magical place, and reading it, for me, was a little like going back.
But the book is not strong on atmosphere alone. It left me quite convinced that every would-be historical novelist should first take a course in thriller-writing. Dunant&