Synopses & Reviews
One of the world's leading historians of Renaissance Italy brings to life here the vibrant--and violent--society of fifteenth-century Florence. His disturbing narrative opens up an entire culture, revealing the dark side of Renaissance man and politician Lorenzo de' Medici.
On a Sunday in April 1478, assassins attacked Lorenzo and his brother as they attended Mass in the cathedral of Florence. Lorenzo scrambled to safety as Giuliano bled to death on the cathedral floor. April Blood moves outward in time and space from that murderous event, unfolding a story of tangled passions, ambition, treachery, and revenge. The conspiracy was led by one of the city's most noble clans, the Pazzi, financiers who feared and resented the Medici's swaggering new role as political bosses--but the web of intrigue spread through all of Italy. Bankers, mercenaries, the Duke of Urbino, the King of Naples, and Pope Sixtus IV entered secretly into the plot. Florence was plunged into a peninsular war, and Lorenzo was soon fighting for his own and his family's survival.
The failed assassination doomed the Pazzi. Medici revenge was swift and brutal--plotters were hanged or beheaded, innocents were hacked to pieces, and bodies were put out to dangle from the windows of the government palace. All remaining members of the larger Pazzi clan were forced to change their surname, and every public sign or symbol of the family was expunged or destroyed.
April Blood offers us a fresh portrait of Renaissance Florence, where dazzling artistic achievements went side by side with violence, craft, and bare-knuckle politics. At the center of the canvas is the figure of Lorenzo the Magnificent--poet, statesman, connoisseur, patron of the arts, and ruthless "boss of bosses." This extraordinarily vivid account of a turning point in the Italian Renaissance is bound to become a lasting work of history.
"This finely wrought account, combining the power of a broad brush with the delicacy of intricate detail, will remain the standard against which all other works on the topic will be judged."--Renaissance Quarterly
"An intriguing book.... Every situation and character Martines presents to us in April Blood is of marvelous complexity: he writes of the learned Pope turned feverish nepotist, the hardened mercenary who will not kill in church, the lucid Lorenzo, who hates the Church's nepotism and yet does everything he can to get his son made a cardinal; then we have the general picture of a religious age in love with transgression, of a republican citizenry avid for the trappings of hierarchy.... The exhilaration and humiliation of a fake democracy, at once so relevant to the modern world and so difficult to pin down, is the real subject of April Blood and the key to understanding the Pazzi conspiracy."--Tim Page, The New York Review of Books
"In April Blood, one can follow the Renaissance plot to murder Lorenzo de Medici...like one of those works of true-crime reporting that frequently make the best-seller list.... This is just the sort of historical mystery that should appeal to fans of, say, Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning (about the murder of Christopher Marlowe) or Josephine Tey's classic The Daughter of Time, in which her fictional detective reopens the case of Richard III"s involvement in the murder of the princes in the Tower."--Washington Post
"Fascinating.... Martines is a master researcher and, like a collector showing off his treasures, his delight in his findings sparkles on every page. The chapter on marriage alone is worth the price of the book (Lorenzo was the champion marriage broker of his day)."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"Lauro Martines expertly places the sensational plot to murder Lorenzo de' Medici in its wider social and political contexts, untangling the motives and intrigues of numerous unsavoury personalities. A fascinatingly gruesome portrait of an age when politics was more apt to be conducted with daggers and poisons than by courtiers and diplomats."--Ross King, author of the New York Times bestseller, Brunelleschi's Dome
"A spine-chilling political drama of conspiracy, murder at High Mass, and bloody revenge; of men split on the wheel from groin to neck, of soldiers biting into the hearts they have torn from the warm dead and mobs who tear the freshly executed limb from limb; of priests tortured until fat dripped from their feet, of corpses of great men being dragged by taunting urchins through some of the most exquisite and sophisticated cities on Earth, while their solid citizens poke sticks into the putrefying flesh. It tells of a Pope, Sixtus IV, esteemed for his piety and learning, who out of purblind nepotism stoops to assassination, of an Archbishop prepared to build his career on murder, who, at the moment of being hanged, is seen by petrified spectators below to sink his teeth deep into the naked breast of the patrician co-conspirator swinging beside him--this, in the Florence of Lorenzo de' Medici."--The Times (London) [more below]
"What makes April Blood as compelling as it is unsettling is its broader canvas, brilliantly illuminated, of the foul consequences of the constant power struggles for place and patronage among men we are more accustomed to think of as paragons of high culture, statesmanship and civilised discourse. Lauro Martines has written a riveting historical thriller that wears great scholarship lightly; but as he probes the rumbling political underbelly of the Italian Renaissance, there is nothing light about the subversiveness of his intent."--The Times (London)
"A finely researched picture of Florentine life dominated by politics and business rather than by the arts. For tourist and scholar alike, it renders that city, at once so radiant and so grim, in a larger whole."--Colin Walters, Washington Times
"Elegant and insightful."--Library Journal
"His debunking of the overly sunny, refulgently cultured 'Florence of the Renaissance' is long overdue. This portrait of Renaissance Florence is a good deal darker and more menacing than most; but, with its shadows and chiaroscuro, it is a picture that seems convincingly real."--John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph
"Elegant and incisive.... Posing the classic 'what if?' question, Martines concludes that the longer term interests of Florentine republicanism might have been better served if the charismatic Lorenzo had indeed been killed on that April morning."--The Sunday Times
"Fascinating.... Martines is a master researcher and, like a collector showing off his treasures, his delight in his findings sparkles on every page."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"Just the sort of historical mystery that should appeal to fans of, say, Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning (about the murder of Christopher Marlowe) or Josephine Tey's classic The Daughter of Time."--Washington Post
"An intriguing book.... Every situation and character Martines presents to usis of marvelous complexity."--The New York Review of Books
"A quietly subversive, elegant counterbalance to centuries of Medici adulation. His narrative is enthralling, his irony devastating, his conclusions unsettling."--Financial Times
"A spine-chilling political drama of conspiracy, murder at High Mass, and bloody revenge."--The Times (London)
Written by a respected Renaissance scholar, this book reads like a novel as it tells the story of one of history's most ruthless bosses.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 282-292) and index.
About the Author
, former Professor of European History at the University of California, Los Angeles, is renowned for his books on the Italian Renaissance. The author of Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy
, and most recently of Strong Words: Writing and Social Strain in the Italian Renaissance
, he reviews for The Times Literary Supplement
and lives in London with his wife, novelist Julia O'Faolain.