I was saddened by the death the other day of Sid Fleischman at age 90, so I thought I'd re-read one of his books. I believe The Venetian Blonde was his last Gold Medal book, but don't hold me to it. It's one of the funny little quirks of my memory that I remember how much this book impressed me back in 1964 when I first read it. Maybe it was the title, or possibly the cover, that caught my eye and made me pluck it off the newsstand. Either one would do the trick.
The blonde isn't in Italy. We're talking Venice, California, here. A cardsharp named Skelly still has his skill, but he's lost his nerve. He's in Venice to put the touch on a friend. Instead, he meets the friend's wife, who's about to work a million-dollar con and needs his help. Skelly doesn't want to get involved, but he's desperate for the dough. He owes a gambler $125,000, and the gambler's not happy about it, not at all.
Skelly meets the blonde in a bar, and she immediately falls for Skelly the way women do in these books. Skelly falls, too, but he doesn't see how it can ever work out.
As you have already guessed, the con doesn't go as smoothly as Skelly had hoped. There are plenty of twists and turns, with a couple of good ones only six or seven pages before the end. It's all very smooth and expertly told. Stark House has already done one Fleischman double, and it includes this novel. There's another double coming later this year. If you like Gold Medal crime and adventure novels, both volumes are well worth your time.