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A Beautiful Crime

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  996 ratings  ·  168 reviews
An O Magazine Best Book of the Year

“Stylish… a compelling take on the eternal question of how good people morph into criminals. Terrific.”People, Book of the Week

From the author of The Destroyers comes an "intricately plotted and elegantly structured" (Newsday) story of intrigue and deception, set in contemporary Venice and featuring a young American couple who have s
Hardcover, 379 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by Harper
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  996 ratings  ·  168 reviews

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First things first, if you're interested in a thriller, but are squeamish or get scared easily, this book is for you. It's not scary nor is it gruesome, but it is good. A Beautiful Crime is my first read by author Christopher Bollen, but now I am totally a fan. The story centers around con-artist couple, Nick Brink and Clay Guillory, and their journey to Venice. In Venice, the duo plan to sell Clay's ex-boyfriend's fake silver at an exponential cost. Clay's boyfriend came from one of the fou ...more
Anna Luce
★★★★✰ 4.25 stars

A Beautiful Crime is a tantalisingly suspenseful part thriller part romance, one that brilliantly captures the landscape, aesthetics, and politics of Venice.

“The love of the city had killed its people. Quite simply, Venice had been visited to death.”

The opening of the novel has a terrific hook. We know that someone at some point is going to die. But who? And how?

“When you see an opportunity, take it. You can brood over the ethics later.”

Vaguely reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith’
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good Lord, I am STILL catching up here on Goodreads, adding reviews for books I finished weeks (or even months) ago. How is it that a pandemic and social distancing have made me derelict here? In any case, A BEAUTIFUL CRIME is fantastic -- and I do not throw around that adjective liberally. Christoper Bollen is our era's Patricia Highsmith, and A BEAUTIFUL CRIME is a spectacular slow-burn of a thriller: think THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY for a new generation. The dread is palpable, the grift is fasci ...more
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Take Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley and mix well with John Berendt’s City of Fallen Angels and you have a taste of what awaits you with Christopher Bollen’s latest novel.

At its heart, it’s a heartfelt ode to Venice: the scandal, skullduggery and seductiveness of this one-of-a-kind city. Into this location of crumbling palazzos and shaky morality enters antiquarian assistant Nick Blake, a handsome “aw shucks” type of guy and his debt-ridden boyfriend, Clay Guillory. They’ve cooked up a fantastic
Jordy’s Book Club
QUICK TAKE: A stunning crime caper with an LGBTQ twist. Set against the backdrop of Venice, Italy, the story revolves around Nick and Clay, a gay couple running from their troubled past to start fresh in Europe. However, in order to start their new life, the couple needs money, so they decide to sell a collection of counterfeit antiques to an unsuspecting American living in Venice who happens to have a complicated history with Clay. It’s part THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, part THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR ...more
Laura Peden
A Beautiful Crime is a twisty, smart M/M heist thriller. The first half was a bit confusing for me due to going back & forth in time and all the different characters but it doesn’t take too long to sharpen to a point and I ploughed through most of it in a single sesh. I was able to escape to Venice, Italy for a few hours and it felt wonderful. Books like this are why I read 🖤
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really grabbed my attention & held on from start to finish. I wanted to give it 5 stars but there were two plot holes that just bagged at me though it’s still a really good read.
I hated to put this book down while I was reading it, but upon reflection, I think I lean closer to three rather than four stars. There are some twists in the book, so all thoughts to support this decision are spoiler tagged!

(view spoiler)
switterbug (Betsey)
What attracts me to Christopher Bollen is his tensile literary thrillers. THE DESTROYERS and LIGHTNING PEOPLE were standouts of dramatic and suspenseful plots with prose to match them, and kept me fascinated until the exciting finales. Like DESTROYERS, Bollen selected an exotic backdrop; not Greece this time, but Venice, Italy, for his story of intrigue and grift in his latest boiler, A BEAUTIFUL CRIME. Venice, to me, was like a character in the book—the unique pedestrian city of canals and conf ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt
Like a five course meal in which each course leaves you both reflecting on what's passed and eager for what's to come, Christopher Bollen's "A Beautiful Crime," is the queer suspense novel I didn't know I needed until I finished it.

Nick and Clay, a young, interracial gay couple from New York City have landed right at the heart of a Venice in the throes of a city overrun by tourists. Putting together a con that will hopefully bring this rural Midwestern boy and black gay boy from the Bronx a bit
...more Mystery & Thriller
It’s risky to write a novel set in Venice. Eminent literary shades --- Thomas Mann, Henry James, Daphne du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith --- inevitably gather, setting up echoes and comparisons: DEATH IN VENICE meets THE WINGS OF THE DOVE meets DON’T LOOK NOW meets THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. On the other hand, La Serenissima, with its ravishing water and light, its mazelike streets, never fails to dazzle and enchant. (I’m lucky enough to have just been there, which made reading this book all the mor ...more
Dec 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the story and I liked the characters of Nick and Clay. They were very naive and somehow that turned out to be a good thing for them. They certainly shouldn’t continue their career of art counterfeit since they really sucked at it. The heist went on way too long and actually began to drag the story down. I came to the conclusion that they need to think about what they really want in their relationship as that is in total jeopardy if they don’t tread carefully. The book does have a tension ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-edelweiss
I received an advanced copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

My first ARC finished this year! And a really good one, too. This book is a wonderful mystery to read in a rainy afternoon - this character-oriented story follows two young men in love as they plan the scam that will save them from financial ruin. I loved how atmospheric this was, and it's definitely not a quick thriller kind of book - it's one to savor slowly and get emotionally connected to the main characters, understa
Gary Branson
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
More travelogue than anything else. Story secondary to the love of Venice. Slow read.
Dhruv Singhal
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"Be gay, do crime." That pretty much sums up the book for me, but I have to say that A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen stands up to its title and presents to us a veritable twisted thriller that's equally digestible and entertaining.

My favorite character, without a doubt, was Venice which stands out throughout the pages of the novel. The cryptic geography, menacingly enchanting beauty and capricious nature of the city seemed to mirror the personalities of its residents. But I must g
Stephanie Storey
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. I always wanted to read "just one more chapter," which is a sign of great read to me! I agree with those who compare the story and characters to Patricia Highsmith AND with those who remark upon the vivid world-building in Venice. It also has a whiff of Goldfinch about it (maybe it's the antique store aspect or the hint of old New York or the heist travel to Europe), but somehow I found myself absorbing and re-reading passages in a way that reminded me of ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now, the plot of this crime novel set in Venice is so Highsmith-esque that I half expected Tom Ripley to come sauntering down a salizada and utter a half-truth: two aspirational lovers concoct what they think is an ingenious scam to defraud a billionaire, only to find their foolproof plan proving them both to be fools, and dangerous, violent, desperate fools at that. But Mr. Bollen has more compassion for his characters than Highsmith had for, like, anybody, so he makes them kind of sweet and sy ...more
So not what I expected. The synopsis is incredibly misleading which I DO NOT APPRECIATE.

For starters, Clay and Nick barely had any scenes together. BARELY!
I hated Nick. Hated him so much.
A lot of things were a little too convenient.
The dialogues didn’t make sense. Some of the things that some of the characters were saying just didn’t mesh with who they are.
The writing was really basic.

But all that being said, I still enjoyed the reading experience.
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was good, not great. It is somewhat predictable, but that isn't always bad and the characters do surprise you a bit in their actions. It is definitely an "easy" thriller - meaning there is very little violence or gruesome parts. I will say reading it did make me want to go back to Venice! ...more
Dennis Holland
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A psychological funhouse of a thriller. The twisty, deceptive geography of Venice is the perfect setting for this twisty story about two deceptive hustlers in love scheming to get rich quick. The cat and mouse plot is enhanced as it is masterfully told from both con-artists’ point of view—never knowing who are the good guys and who are the bad and, subsequently, turning each page with intrigue.
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A tale that has its obvious wonderful origins in the work of Patricia Highsmith. Third thriller written by Bollen and this one may be his best. Tightly wound, yet moves with ease toward its inevitable conclusion of emotional explosion. Bollen paints impending doom throughout the story of two young men, in a relationship, who plan a confidence game to swindle a rather obnoxious wealthy fellow American with greedy goals of his own involving art and restoration and ego. Making this all more beautif ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

A Beautiful Crime is a wonderful, Patricia Highsmith-esque thriller that greatly leverages its setting (Venice), as well as a diverse set of fully realized characters.

I was on the edge of my seat for most of this reading experience, even for the flashback sections that delve into the characters' personal backgrounds. Despite these sections not necessarily moving the plot forward, they are written so crisply and beautifully, it made me want more.

In fact, that is one of my few criticism
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A part of him had expected to be disappointed by Venice; surely the city had been overhyped his whole life. Now he faced the far more unusual prospect of agreeing with common opinion: Venice was a symphony playing inside a shipwreck.

My God, this book was astounding. I love a good grifter novel, and A Beautiful Crime is a flawlessly executed one.

This is a novel about bohemian culture, art, revenge, and desperation, but at its heart it's really about all the different iterations of love. Chri
Geonn Cannon
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really good crime novel, set in a unique location. Grifters trying to con a bad dude, but things don't go quite as smooth as they hoped. It's fun watching super-competent con artists on Leverage, but it's equally entertaining to read about good people slipping into crime. It DOES shift between past and present, but in a much more natural way than I've been complaining about lately. ...more
Terri Taylor
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a slow paced thriller, light on the thrills. It was fun to read about Venice in such rich detail, but I didn’t ever connect enough with any of the characters to really care what happened to them. I didn’t really have anyone to root for and sort of thought no one deserved a happy ending.
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A simple, but exquisite, psychological thriller. Love Bollen’s novels.
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-books
I loved this book and its Venice setting. Such a fascinating premise, compellingly complex characters, and of course there’s Venice, the most intriguing element of all.
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, lgbtq
This suspenseful thriller is set in Venice where the lovers Nick & Clay plan to defraud a greedy billionaire. Recommended for fans of Patricia Highsmith.
Omar Guazzelli
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book. For its length, I wish more time had been devoted to the twists and turns of the genre than to descriptions of Venice that went on for much longer than necessary.
Isaac Rosen
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surpassed my expectations for what I understood of the genre (gay grifter love story?). A really consuming, fun escape.
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Christopher Bollen is a writer who lives in New York City. He regularly writes about art, literature, and culture. His first novel, Lightning People, was published in 2011. His second novel, Orient, was published by Harper in May 2015. He is currently the Editor at Large at Interview Magazine.

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