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The Malice of Fortune
by Michael Ennis

Overview -

Against a teeming canvas of Borgia politics, Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci come together to unmask an enigmatic serial killer, as we learn the secret history behind one of the most controversial works in the western canon, "The Prince..."
When Pope Alexander dispatches a Vatican courtesan, Damiata, to the remote fortress city of Imola to learn the truth behind the murder of Juan, his most beloved illegitimate son, she cannot fail, for the scheming Borgia pope holds her own young son hostage.  Read more...


 
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More About The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis
 
 
 
Overview

Against a teeming canvas of Borgia politics, Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci come together to unmask an enigmatic serial killer, as we learn the secret history behind one of the most controversial works in the western canon, "The Prince..."
When Pope Alexander dispatches a Vatican courtesan, Damiata, to the remote fortress city of Imola to learn the truth behind the murder of Juan, his most beloved illegitimate son, she cannot fail, for the scheming Borgia pope holds her own young son hostage. Once there, Damiata becomes a pawn in the political intrigues of the pope's surviving son, the charismatic Duke Valentino, whose own life is threatened by the "condottieri, " a powerful cabal of mercenary warlords. Damiata suspects that the killer she seeks is one of the brutal "condottierri, " and as the murders multiply, her quest grows more urgent. She enlists the help of an obscure Florentine diplomat, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Valentino's eccentric military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci, who together must struggle to decipher the killer's taunting riddles: Leonardo with his groundbreaking "science of observation" and Machiavelli with his new "science of men." Traveling across an Italy torn apart by war, they will enter a labyrinth of ancient superstition and erotic obsession to discover at its center a new face of evil--and a truth that will shake the foundations of western civilization.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385536318
  • ISBN-10: 0385536313
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish Date: September 2012
  • Page Count: 396


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Mystery & Detective - Historical
Books > Fiction > Thrillers

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-07-02
  • Reviewer: Staff

Ennis (The Duchess of Milan) brilliantly recreates the complex politics of early 16th-century Italy in this absorbing and intelligent thriller that teams Leonardo da Vinci with Niccolò Machiavelli. The assassination of Juan Borgia, an illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI, leads the pope to turn to Juan’s older brother, Cesare, to further his military and territorial ambitions, which are opposed by mercenaries who fear the Borgias’ consolidation of power. Against this turbulent backdrop, the future author of The Prince seeks to apply “the principles that govern the nature of men” to solve a series of brutal murders that have left women mutilated. Da Vinci’s scientific approach to examining the corpses advances the inquiry, even as the killer’s vicious m.o. and planting of cloven footprints suggest that the devil himself is responsible. What could have come across as a contrived partnership is anything but in Ennis’s skilled hands, and he seamlessly integrates the search for the murderer with the power struggles of the day. Fans of superior historical mystery writers such as Steven Saylor and Laura Jo Rowland will be enthralled. 6-city author tour. Agent: Dan Lazar, Writers House. (Sept.)

 
BookPage Reviews

When football meets murder

With an impressive eight books to his credit in as many years, Michael Koryta once again wows readers with The Prophet, a tale of football and murder in a small Midwestern town. Brothers Kent and Adam Austin have followed wildly disparate paths since the abduction and murder of their beloved sister many years before. Adam has become a bail bondsman, haunting the fringes of the criminal element of Chambers, Ohio. Kent, by contrast, has grown deeply religious; he is something of a town hero as well, as the high-school football team he coaches seems poised to win the state championship. Then the sweetheart of the team’s star receiver is found strangled to death, and all hell breaks loose in the usually peaceful town. Worse, the murder bears marked resemblances to the killing of Kent and Adam’s sister all those years ago, stirring up ghosts neither brother is prepared to deal with. Already optioned for a feature film, The Prophet is one of the year’s best mysteries.

SOCIOPATHIC SOCIALITES
Copenhagen cold case investigator Carl M⌀rck, who made his debut in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s 2011 novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes, once again takes on a cold—make that frigid—case in The Absent One. The case involves the killing of a brother and sister some 20 years before, a case in which the prime suspects were the progeny of some of Denmark’s most prestigious families, all classmates in a high-dollar (er, kroner) boarding school. Most of said suspects went on to become contemporary Danish movers and shakers. One, a “poor ­relation,” went to jail for the murders. And one, Kimmie—who knows that the convicted murderer was nothing more than a paid scapegoat for his wealthy friends—is living on the streets, furtively plotting her revenge on the band of sociopathic socialites. Somehow, M⌀rck will have to find a way to bring the miscreants to justice before Kimmie has the opportunity to administer her altogether more Old Testament style of retribution. Scandinavian suspense fiction is just about the best thing going nowadays, and Adler-Olsen is well toward the front of the pack.

RENAISSANCE INTRIGUE
Historical mysteries are not usually my thing, although I’ve made happy exceptions for Umberto Eco and Ross King (to name a couple). Now I will be adding Michael Ennis to my must-read list, thanks to his absorbing page-turner of 16th-century Italy, The Malice of Fortune. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to throw Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci together into a Renaissance investigation of serial murder, but Ennis has done just that. Populating the landscape with a plethora of real-life characters, the author has woven a tale of intrigue based on the well-documented slaying of the heir presumptive to the Borgia mantle. As Ennis notes in the intro: “All of the major characters are historical figures, and all of them do exactly what the archival evidence tells us they did, exactly where and when they did it. What history fails to tell us is how and why they did it. And thereby hangs a tale . . .” And what a tale it is, replete with byzantine machinations and subterfuge, a fair bit of bloodletting and something of a love story as well. What’s not to like?

TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Very little will break the monks’ vow of silence at Saint Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, a remote Quebec monastery dedicated to Gregorian chant. But one thing has: murder. In the garden of the abbot lies the choir director, his skull bashed in. Improbable though it may seem, one of the two dozen monks must be the killer. As Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery opens, Chief Inspector Gamache is summoned to look into the homicide with right-hand man Jean-Guy Beauvoir. It doesn’t take the canny pair long to realize that all is not harmonious inside the walls of Saint Gilbert. Indeed, there is a schism that has divided the monks: those who support the abbot and want to keep the monastery as it has been for hundreds of years, and those who supported the choir director, who wanted to make a high-tech recording of Gregorian chant, thereby drawing the order into the 21st century. Gamache and Beauvoir play off one another brilliantly, offering a stirring point/counterpoint with regard to the spiritual and secular issues that have become such an element of modern life. In the process, they do a damn fine job of solving mysteries.

 
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