Books by Elizabeth Eyre

DIRGE FOR A DOGE by Elizabeth Eyre
Released: March 11, 1997

Renaissance is the era; Venice is the place; and the featured hero is Sigismondo da Roca (Axe for an Abbot, 1996 etc.), unofficial Mr. Fixit for papal bigwigs and the aristocracy. In Venice for the funeral of an old friend, Sigismondo is hired by Vettor Darin, father of the late wife of Lord Niccolo Ermolin. Niccolo's stilettoed body has just been discovered in his palace study by his young, pregnant second wife Isabella. While Sigismondo tries to sort out means and motives, Niccolo's brother Lord Rinaldo quickly takes charge of the family's ample fortunes—freezing out Niccolo's wastrel son Marco and arranging matters so that murder charges are brought against Pasquale Scolar, a would-be suitor of Isabella's, the son of a doge whose elevated position is coveted by Vettor Darin. That's just for starters. Throw in a second murder; Niccolo's illegitimate black son, Cosmo; an assassin stalking Sigismondo to avenge a brother's death; the Venetian fleet's forays against the Turks, with rampant corruption at all levels; a procession of corpses—poisoned, stabbed, drowned or decapitated- -and our hero's up-close and personal encounter with the torture chambers beneath the doges' place. With some help from influential friends, Sigismondo pinpoints the original killer and leaves the city in one piece accompanied, as ever, by his clever, insignificant, and devoutly relieved servant Benno. Only the site has changed from the five past adventures in this series: Characters, palaces, and slums have different names, but the tumultuous catalogue of crimes—major and minor—stays the same, leaving the history-challenged reader feeling more besieged than entertained. Read full book review >
AXE FOR AN ABBOT by Elizabeth Eyre
Released: Feb. 8, 1996

Yet another chronicle of evil doings in olden days, and a fifth outing for quietly macho Renaissance man Sigismondo Da Rocca and his servant Benno—an appealing young man who appears dim- witted but misses nothing (Poison for the Prince, 1994, etc.). This time out, Sigismondo's been tricked into killing Bernabo, a member of the warring Pantera family, as Bernabo attempted to steal back from his nephews the jewel-laden cross called La Feconda—reputed to bring children and prosperity. Sigismondo vows to honor Bernabo's dying plea—to take the cross to the shrine of the Virgin of Scheggia, an island off the Italian coast. But more trouble erupts when the Abbot Bonifaccio, locked in a financial wrangle with Sigismondo's friend and patron Duke Ludivico of Rocca, is killed—the weapon a small axe belonging to Sigismondo. It all results in the dispatch of a motley group to Rome, where our hero is to deliver the news of the Abbot's demise to the Pope; the Pantera brothers Olivero and Ferondo are to meet their wives, and Father Ieronimo, a visionary who claims to have murdered the Abbot, is to be examined. Their arrival in Rome presages all kinds of skulduggery, with La Feconda the irresistible prize. The death of the Pope and the election of his successor provide a colorful prelude to even more treacheries when Sigismondo reaches Scheggia and at last fulfills his mission. Characters, killings, pageantry, opulence, filth and abject poverty seem to wrestle for space here. A little breathing room is called for, but the main man is incisive and the action nonstop- -enough for a mildly engrossing romp through history. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

You think you've got problems? Prince Scipione of Viverra, his treasury depleted by the siege of Mascia, turns to alchemy in a desperate attempt to replenish his stores of gold, calling down the wrath of Brother Ambrogio, the tame firebrand invited to court by Scipione's mother to preach against vanity. The prince is preoccupied with keeping a wary eye on freelance mercenary Gatta, who took Mascia for him, but he has troubles closer to home: His hostage, Donato Landucci, is plying Scipione's wife, Princess Isotta, with aphrodisiacs; his son Francesco alternates between carefree whoring and renouncing the princedom; and somebody, inevitably, is trying to kill him. Though Scipione's life is repeatedly and miraculously spared, other intimates of the court- -the flirtatious Ginevra Matarazza, the Venetian ambassador Signor Loredano, the lovesick Landucci—are not so lucky. So it's up to soldier of fortune Sigismondo (Curtains for the Cardinal, 1993, etc.), first employed to report on Gatta's siege of Mascia, to sort out the intrigues and keep the prince in power—while avoiding the three cousins who are trying to kill Sigismondo himself. Less earnestly didactic than Sigismondo's earlier adventures, but still aswirl in enough Machiavellian plots, moonlit assignations, treacherous hirelings, and summary beheadings to keep you bedazzled in a perpetual haze of Renaissance chiaroscuro. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1993

The second appearance of Sigismondo, the Renaissance trouble- shooter for Duke Ludovico of Rocca, finds him at the bedside of expiring Princess Oralia while her husband, evil Prince Livio, beheads his young son—believing that he and his twin sister, Lady Minerva, were begat by another. Sigismondo and his half-witted companion Benno flee with Minerva, disguise her as a peasant boy, and head for Fontecasta, a supposedly haunted castle but actually the home of a nobleman blinded by Duke Grifone. Meanwhile, during preparations for the feast of Saint Bernardina, the Duke's advisor, Cardinal Petrucci, is set ablaze and killed, and his sister, the bossy Princess Corio, hires Sigismondo to discover whodunit. Deftly maneuvering through political intrigues, Sigismondo discovers clerical improprieties (love affairs, bribes), treacherous mercenaries, household spies, avid torturers, eager Jew-baiters, and crafty magicians, and manages to outwit them all. Teeming with fleas, rancid food, bloodthirsty peasants, conniving nobles, lecherous prelates, thumbscrews, saintly relics, and political feuds. Lively but, like Eyre's Death of the Duchess (1992), can't shake the YA label with its jampacked this-is- history-kids tone. Read full book review >
DEATH OF THE DUCHESS by Elizabeth Eyre
Released: March 31, 1992

Eyre, a pseudonym for the authors also writing as Susannah Stacey (the Inspector Bone series), turns to Renaissance Italy for this first in a series—a clue-laden tale of political alliances, court intrigue, and romantic folderol. When Jacopo di Torre discovers that his daughter has been abducted, he insists it's the work of his enemy Ugo Bandini. But the Duke of Rocca's emissary— the tall, strong, incisive Sigismondo—is not quite so easy to convince, particularly when the Duke's Duchess is soon murdered in her chambers, and Bandini's son is implicated. Sigismondo, abetted by the not-so-simple simpleton Benno, interviews the household dwarfs; impersonates a nun and reconnoiters a cloister; effects an escape from a dungeon; and engineers a mock-wedding ceremony between the (reclaimed) abductee and the (liberated) cellar- dweller; then, with the cool aplomb of an early-Italianate Sherlock Holmes, untangles the convoluted rivalries, explains away the red herrings, and, with the lice-infected Benno at his side, heads off in search of other adventures. The earnest tone, preponderance of clues, teeming-with- historical-facts narrative—all (with a few deletions) seem better suited to the YA market. As do the characters here. Read full book review >