A Florentine lawyer must solve a murder to keep his city from imploding.
After spending two years in France on a diplomatic mission at the behest of his friend and the city’s leader, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his nephew Amerigo return in 1480 to find Italy split into many warring factions and Florence under an interdict of the pope, who wants to see Lorenzo ousted. As they arrive home, stories of a beautiful young woman abducted and either murdered or sold into slavery by marauding Turks are sweeping the city. At Guid’Antonio’s parish church, a painting of the Virgin is weeping tears, a sign to the populace that God is angry with them for defying the pope. Guid’Antonio is doubtful of the stories about the missing girl, a married woman with a much older husband. When her horse appears, its saddle covered in fresh blood, he scours the city for the slave and maid who had accompanied her on a trip to a spa in a nearby town. All the while, Guid’Antonio is plagued by nightmares about the violent murder of his dear friend, Lorenzo’s brother. The missing girl’s husband is murdered, and the slave found hidden in a fireplace. But he still will say nothing about what happened to his mistress. Guid’Antonio and Amerigo wander the byways of Florence, visiting churches, taverns and the workshops of Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli in search of a missing monk who may hold the answers to the mysteries.
One hopes that White’s clever tale, meticulously researched and pleasingly written, is the first in a series that will bring Florence and its many famous denizens to life.