Here's a book I didn't enjoy at all. Didn't even finish it - wimped out a little over halfway with only a feeling of relief.
The City of Falling Angels is set in Venice and revolves around the author's inquiry into the fire which destroyed the Fenice Opera House. Along the way he meets all kinds of eccentrics (feuding glassblowers, rat catchers, itinerant plant salesman, American expats) and paints an unflattering portrait of the city's underbelly. Berendt uncovers some fascinating material but fails to make the most of it - it reads like background research waiting for a novel to happen. But the writing plods and is at times dismaying clumsy.
I also can't fathom why there are no pictures at all. Is it just assumed that we know our way around the architecture and geography of Venice? I certainly don't.
Berendt is best known for his Pulitzer winning Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil his 1994 book (non-fiction but with some invented scenes!) about a murder in Savannah, Georgia. I have a copy on my shelves but haven't yet read it. There was also a film made of it. This time though, he doesn't get the formula right.
Can't help thinking that it would be fun to write a non-fiction novel like this about another historical city slowly sinking into the mud of ineptitude and indifference - our own Malacca.