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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

The Book of Unholy Mischief: A Novel

Publisher: Washington Square Press
ISBN: 1416590579
Pages: 400 pgs
Genre: Thriller/Historical Fiction
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge



    Summary (from Publisher):

    In a world of violence and intrigue, who guards the truth?

    It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. Everyone, rich and poor alike, speculates about the long-buried secrets scrawled in its pages and where it could possibly be hidden within the labyrinthine city. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

    As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets.

    Luciano's loyalty to his street friends and the passion he holds for a convent girl named Francesca remain, but it is not long before he, too, is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one, not even those he's come to rely on most, can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity,

    Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.

    Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life into an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key. In a world of violence an d in trigue, who guards the truth?

    My Review:

    The Renaissance is at its height in 1498 Venice. There are rumors of an ancient book that holds the secret to immense power. Those that protect the book will do just about anything to prevent those that want to find it from stealing it. In the middle of this is the quick witted orphan, Luciano. He gets hired as a chef’s apprentice in the palace kitchen and is brought into the world of (what every Italian loves best) food. After he witnesses a murder in the dining room, he realizes that the people he depends on cannot be trusted at all and embarks on a journey to discover the truth.

    I usually avoid books like this. For no good reason other than they remind me of The Da Vinci Code and I find them tedious and often badly written. This one was set apart because of the richness of the writing and the historical detail which sadly were lacking in The Da Vinci code and almost every book like it. But enough with the Da Vinci Code comparisons because this book is 100x the novel that the Da Vinci Code is.

    Luciano was a great character. He was engaging and intelligent. He had an Oliver Twist quality to him that I didn’t like in Oliver Twist but find interesting in Luciano. I loved that Luciano was so self-reliant. He witnessed a murder and took it upon himself to solve the mystery. He did not lean on anyone else.

    You can tell that Newmark really took the time to research. Her descriptions of Renaissance Venice were beautiful and detailed. You feel like you are actually there and a part of the decaying yet beautiful city. I also loved the food, as every Italian worth his or her salt would. Food and cooking is a huge part of my life and I loved reading about the food and cooking. I think that is where Newmark’s writing was the best. I love the significance that food played in this book. It really brought the novel to life.

    I really loved this book. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good thriller but values writing and plot development.

    *A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

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