Murder mystery, apparently the first of a series, set in an alternate-world Renaissance Venice, from the excellent Duncan (Children of Chaos, 2006, etc.).
In this world, magic works and demons are real—though not, of course, discussed in polite society; astrologer-physician Maestro Filippo Nostradamus uses his clairvoyance to derive riddles describing complex problems and hinting at their solution. His apprentice, the noble Alfeo Zeno, connoisseur of art and manuscripts, is dismayed to be summoned by the doge, Pietro Moro. At a private party, it seems, nobles—including, secretly, the doge himself, and also the Maestro—gathered to examine and possibly bid on a collection of ancient manuscripts. The noble Bertucci Orseolo died after attending. It’s possible he was murdered, and the doge requires Alfeo and his master to investigate—very confidentially. The Maestro knows that Orseolo was poisoned with digitalis. But who would want Orseolo dead, and why? Was the doge the intended victim, conceivably targeted by Turkish assassins? Since the Maestro can barely walk, Alfeo must do most of the sleuthing; meanwhile, he will enjoy the attentions of his lover, the celebrated courtesan Violetta of the ferocious intellect and multiple personalities, avoid scrutiny by the official police, who tend to torture first and ask questions later, and endure a demon-inspired temptation to steal a priceless copy of a lost play by Euripides.
Not as outrageously original as some of this author’s best, but brimming with wit and low-key charms; neither aficionados nor newcomers will be disappointed.