In 15th-century Milan, artist and court engineer Leonardo da Vinci adds sleuthing to his résumé.
To celebrate the visit of the French Ambassador, the Duke of Milan, aka Il Moro, plans a dazzling array of festivities including a chess match with important local personages dressed as the various chess pieces. During an intermission, as guests and pieces have scattered, Leonardo’s endlessly curious apprentice Dino discovers the corpse of the white bishop—the Conte di Ferrara, a cousin of the duke. Because of his service to the duke and his knowledge of anatomy, Leonardo is asked to examine the body and later considers it his duty to look further into the mystery. Meanwhile, the killing is kept under wraps. Dino nervously replaces the slain count in the game in hopes of ferreting out a likely suspect or two. His secret knowledge makes Dino an obvious Watson to da Vinci’s Holmes in the lengthy investigation that ensues. He also makes a major confession to the reader, adding considerable dimension to the story but overshadowing the whodunit: Dino is a woman, living as a young man in order to work for “The Master.” Protecting her identity goes hand in hand with solving the crime.
Stuckart’s debut is a baroque narrative with plenty of historical tidbits, and Dino’s secret augurs well for further complex adventures.