The second in the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series finally begins to explore said secrets.
Spunky Venetian teenage sleuth Cassandra finds her life upset all over again when the doge’s soldiers haul her fiance, the ultradecent, churchgoing Luca, off to prison for heresy. Might it have something to do with the Order of the Eternal Rose, with which her scientist parents had been involved? Determined to prove Luca innocent, she hies to Florence, to which one of his accusers has abruptly removed herself. There she becomes caught up in a web of intrigue that involves a sudden rash of vampirism and centers on the estate of an impossibly young-looking noblewoman—where Cass’ erstwhile inamorata, the hot, impetuous (and actually heretical) Falco, happens to be artist-in-residence. Many embarrassingly clichéd clinches ensue. Cass’ detecting methodology relies heavily on luck, conveniently found documents and the willingness of key people not to notice her while she is wearing borrowed cloaks, making for a pretty uninteresting mystery. Chapters are introduced by sinister snatches from the Order’s secret book, which include Renaissance medical theory and anthropological observations as the plot demands, as well as the expected hints of the clandestine. Paul’s exploration of setting, especially the depth of information she offers on attire, is genuinely interesting, but it’s not enough to lift the plot above pedestrian.
A wildly unlikely cliffhanger promises more of the same to come. (Historical mystery. 14 & up)