February: Historical Mystery Review

Dear Reader,

I can proudly say that I actually finished my novel for this month (even though I was shorted several days)!  And I’m not going to lie; it was a rough start.  I decided, by suggestion, to read The Malice of Fortune, by Michael Ennis.

If you know me at all, you know that my favorite genre is historical fiction…salivate…especially anything to do with the Tudors and that time period.  So naturally I liked the sound of this book since it was about the Borgias in Italy during the turn of the 16th century.  That being said, I know absolutely NO Italian (but hopefully I will soon thanks to Rosetta Stone!).  Obviously the people were all Italian and the author was nice enough to put a “name glossary” in the front of the book, but there were also Italian terms in the book that I had to look up on the internet (i.e. conditorri).  But Mr. Ennis was also nice enough to at least italicize (sorry, no pun intended) these terms for my benefit.

Okay, so I’ll give you a little background history.  The Borgias are a prominent Italian family during the Renaissance and produced two popes; Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander IV along with his illegitimate children is who the novel focuses on.  And apparently the whole family is just full of corruption, and have been suspected of adultery, theft, rape, bribery, incest, and murder which made them many, many enemies like the Medici.  On another note, they were patrons of the arts.  Bonus points, right?

So the novel starts out with the Pope’s favorite son, Juan de Borgia mysteriously murdered and his “girlfriend” at the time, Damiata, who is also a famous whore in Italy becomes a prime suspect.  We are not sure, but her son is thought to be Juan’s child.  Damiata goes on the run after the murder but after several years, the Pope finds her and takes her son (his grandson) hostage.  He tells her that a woman was found murdered and quartered with Juan’s personal amulet on her person.  If Damiata wants her son back, she is to go to the city of Imola and uncover the mystery of this murder.

Damiata travels to Imola and meets Niccola something-or-other-Italian who was sent by the city of Florence as ambassador to record and send back information on the Pope’s other son, Valentino, who is the head general (pretty much).  Valentino, put in this position by the Pope, is trying to come to an agreement with the condetorri who are also power driven.

Interestingly, Ennis also incorporates Leonardo de Vinci who is employed by Valentino to use his experimenta to investigate the murders.  The murdered are only women whores who just happen to be quartered and pasted with some concoction.  And there is a designo to the murders–it isn’t random.  So Damiata, Niccola, and occasionally Leonardo and his team work together to uncover the mystery.

I will have to say that even with all the mystery and characters, I totally guessed the murderer…and I didn’t check Wikipedia either!  Although we’ll never know exactly what was said and who was involved and what happened, Ennis did a fair job creating this murder mystery that is pretty accurate to what the historical records are.  And, if anything, this novel certainly gave me insight to the Borgia family which I will now be watching on Showtime.  :)



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