Synopses & Reviews
Florence, June 1300. The body of an artist, his face covered in quicklime, is discovered next to the mosaic he had almost completed. Dante Alighieri, the newly appointed prior of the city of Florence (and the man who will one day write that exhaustive treatise on criminology, the Inferno
), is on the case. It is his first official investigation. Obscure clues lead him up and down the streets of Florence, following a trail full of intrigue and mystery. Why have seven scholars, each a master of his art, assembled in the city? What was the secret that might have been revealed had the artist lived to complete his work? Was it an alchemist's formula to transform lead into gold? Did it have to do with Antilia, wild and beautiful, who dances nightly in a tavern owned by a one-armed crusader? Or perhaps with another elusive Beatrice, the heiress to the imperial Swabian throne, whose rumored arrival in the city could upset the political aspirations of Pope Boniface, Dante's nemesis?
Leoni's voice is wry and irreverent as he pokes fun at the genius poet and renders Dante a human being brilliant but temperamental, bumbling but undaunted. An enthralling historical thriller from Italy's new maestro of crime.
"Set in Florence in 1300, Leoni's absorbing historical features Italy's premier poet, Dante Alighieri as sleuth. Master mosaicist Ambrogio, who was at work in a ruined church, is found suffocated and disfigured his head encased in a layer of caustic quicklime. Dante, plagued with migraines, resentful of Boniface VIII's attempts to consolidate papal power and generally irascible throughout, embarks on a solo investigation. At a seedy tavern, Dante encounters a group of intellectuals known as the Third Heaven, who meet secretly to discuss art and be entertained by an exotic dancer, Antilia. Despite the distraction of the alluring Antilia, Dante conceives intriguing theories of how victims attract killers and how illness serves as punishment for sin. Leoni's first publication in English is a well-researched labyrinth of medieval Italian history and politics." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Readers will be either charmed or irritated by debut novelist Leoni's characterization of the poet as a cranky, sometimes obtuse genius. The mystery itself is a bit too abstract to be compelling." Kirkus Reviews
Florence, June 1300. The body of an artist, his face covered in quicklime, is discovered next to the mosaic he had almost completed. Dante Alighieri, the newly appointed prior of the city of Florence who will one day author the Inferno, is on the case in his first official investigation. Obscure clues lead him on a trail full of intrigue. What was the secret that might have been revealed had the artist lived to complete his work? Was it an alchemists formula to transform lead into gold? Or the identity of an heiress to the Swabian throne, whose rumored arrival could upset the political aspirations of Pope Boniface, Dantes nemesis? Soon Dante comes to know the learned men who make up the so-called Third Heaven. Scholars of various disciplines, they appear to be increasingly linked to the mosaicists murder and the corrupt underbelly of the respected, cultured city of Florence.
About the Author
GIULIO LEONI won the Premio Tedeschi for best new crime novel in 2000. He lives in Rome.