The Tears of the Madonna

Overview

The author of A Comedy of Murders now spins a tale of murder, theft and intrigue set in Italy in 1499, starring Leonardo da Vinci and his friend Niccolo, a dwarf with a photographic memory. As the story opens, a courier carrying a fabulous diamond necklace is killed and his precious booty is stolen: a necklace called "The Tears of the Madonna" because of its tear-shaped diamonds. Meanwhile, Maestro Leonardo flees Milan, which the French have just captured, and travels to the Marquesa of Mantua's opulent court, to...
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Overview

The author of A Comedy of Murders now spins a tale of murder, theft and intrigue set in Italy in 1499, starring Leonardo da Vinci and his friend Niccolo, a dwarf with a photographic memory. As the story opens, a courier carrying a fabulous diamond necklace is killed and his precious booty is stolen: a necklace called "The Tears of the Madonna" because of its tear-shaped diamonds. Meanwhile, Maestro Leonardo flees Milan, which the French have just captured, and travels to the Marquesa of Mantua's opulent court, to paint her portrait. The Marquesa, who lost the necklace to a bank when she defaulted on a loan, is suspected of having orchestrated its latest disappearance. At the request of the suspicious banker, Leonardo and Niccolo become sleuths in the Mantuan court... Our heroes are soon embroiled in a series of deadly mysteries, and confusion reigns when necklaces resembling "the Tears" are seen at the throats of three aristocratic women: Lucrezia Borgia in Rome, Caterina Sforza in Imola, and the devious Marquesa. After a decayed human head is found in the gardens of the palazzo, Leonardo uses his knowledge of anatomy to reconstruct it and learn the whereabouts of the real "Tears of the Madonna." Leonardo's discovery, which takes him to Venice at carnival time, puts him and Niccolo in the middle of an assassination plot. It takes a clever ploy - and a little luck - to bring the artist and dwarf to safety, and to the surprising finale.

This new novel by the author of A Comedy of Murders is set in Italy in 1499. A courier carrying a fabulous diamond necklace is killed and the necklace is stolen. Enter Maestro Leonardo da Vinci and his friend Niccolo, a dwarf with a photographic memory, who soon become part of the intrigues of the court of the Marquesa of Mantua, as they try to solve the mystery.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Spying, torture, poisoning and strangulation are all part of the daily routine in the malevolent court of Gian-Francesco Gonzaga and his devious wife, Isabella d'Este, Marquesa of Mantua. The year is 1499, and Leonardo da Vinci is at court to paint the Marquesa's portrait, but steadily and without his full knowledge he is drawn into a hazardous web of schemes involving the perpetually warring city-states of Milan, Mantua and Venice. Following Herman's A Comedy of Murders, the novel frequently bogs down in tedious explanations of the era's labyrinthine politics. At the heart of the intrigue lies a priceless diamond necklace (The Tears of the Madonna), stolen from a murdered courier and now inexplicably appearing simultaneously on the necks of Lucretia Borgia in Rome, Isabella d'Este in Mantua and Caterina Sforza in Imola. The bankers' guild of Venice, needing the necklace as loan collateral, uses the multitalented dwarf Niccolo (witty, scholarly, lecherous and an invaluable aide to Leonardo) as their spy in the Gonzaga court. Leonardo applies his skills at logic, forensic medicine and pharmacology to solve many of the nasty doings. This book sorely needs more Leonardo and Niccolo and far less convoluted politics. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Herman constructs a vibrant re-creation of warring city-states and corrupt popes in Renaissance Italy. As in A Comedy of Murders (Carroll & Graf, 1994), Leonardo da Vinci and friend Niccolo become involved in political intrigue. Their mission centers around a missing necklace, valuable both as a symbol of power and as collateral for a large loan. The scenes reveal tantalizing glimpses of historical personalities and places. A treat for historical mystery lovers.
Margaret Flanagan
Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo the dwarf return to solve another mystery steeped in petty rivalries and political intrigue. When a courier is cruelly beheaded and a priceless diamond necklace is apparently stolen from their patroness, Leonardo and Niccolo begin to suspect the crimes were staged to conceal the fact that the jewels were actually clever counterfeits. As the maestro and his resourceful sidekick continue to investigate, they unravel an intricate web of deceit and double cross involving the notorious Cesare Borgia and the courts of several noble Italian families. Herman's characters are delightfully drawn and his depiction of Renaissance Italy as a loose confederation of fractious city-states beset by both feuds and foreign imperialism is right on target. Another fine blend of history and mystery from the author of "A Comedy of Murders" (1994).
Kirkus Reviews
In the second of a series (begun with A Comedy of Murders, 1994), the setting is once again Renaissance Italy and the sleuths are Leonardo da Vinci and his more than worthy sidekick, the learned dwarf Niccolo. When a courier is savagely murdered and the (title) object in his keeping stolen, Leonardo, having fled French- occupied Milan, is summoned to Mantua to investigate whether those crimes were, as is suspected, the work of "the driving force behind the courts of Italy . . . Women." He and the irrepressible Niccolo discover avarice and worse in the hearts of every Borgia and Borgia-like nobleman (and -woman)—as well as complicated intrigue lurking in every palazzo—during a journey that also leads to Venice during "carnivale" and to a climactic encounter in the Street of the Assassins. It takes a while for Herman to link his novel's opening episode with subsequent events and all characters, but once the plot gets rolling it gathers real momentum. His prose glitters with wit, featuring dozens of sophisticated conversational exchanges, and his knowledge of the period's art, architecture, geography, and social history seem impeccable. The thoughtful, cautious Leonardo is a completely believable creation—and Herman ingeniously employs his hero's knowledge of the anatomy to help solve the mystery. It's a virtual embarrassment of riches when we recognize graceful allusions to Guy de Maupassant and Sherlock Holmes.

A delight in what we hope will be an ongoing series.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786702435
  • Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/23/1996
  • Series: Leonardo DaVinci Series
  • Pages: 288

Table of Contents

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