Book Review: ‘Portrait Of A Conspiracy’ Excites & Intrigues

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One murder ignites the powder keg that consumes a Florence under the iron rule of the powerful Medici family. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a dangerous plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed.

We are introduced to a group of women, united together in a world dominated by men. In their quest for self expression as artists, they band together in a secret room in a church, under the protection of a priest who is the brother to one of the women, Father Raffaello Soderini. Their leader is Viviana del Marrone, a descendant of Catherine of Bologna, a noted writer and artist who lived her life in a convent. Viviana inherited her journals and it motivates Leonardo da Vinci to take them under his wing.

It is renaissance Florence during the reign of the Medici family, people that rule with an iron fist. They are also patrons of the arts. We meet and get to know a remarkable group of women, Countess Fiammetta, Lapaccia Cavalcanti, Natasia Soderini, Mattea Zamperini and Isabetta Fioravanti. A very diverse assemblage and getting to know them is very entertaining.

The story opens with Viviana going to a religious ceremony where the Medici brothers will be in attendance with high-ranking officials. But Orfeo, Viviana’s husband, refuses to go, whining about not being recognized. He is cruel and and abusive to her and she struggles to keep the marks hidden from her sons and her close friends. She arrives at the church with her friends but something is amiss and a revolt, led by the Pazzi family, erupts with one Medici brother murdered. The retribution wreaked by the Medici family is hell on earth for the residents of Florence and it turns out that one of their own is missing. Lapaccia cannot be found and she is accused of stealing a painting that held the traitors faces and the Medici all want her, the painting and the rebels. They search everywhere for both Lapaccia and the the painting and so it begins.

They must try to save their comrade and to do so, devise a daring plan and with Leonardo da Vinci’s help, they set about making things right. It is a wonderful glimpse into 1400’s Florence, the background is absolutely perfect as is the cruelty that men perpetuate on each other in the name of justice. You have to close your eyes and try not to look but you do look, and you will not forget!

‘Portrait of a Conspiracy’ is a very exciting and well-put together read and the finale is left wide open, possibly for more. A real keeper.

Available in bookstores now


Ann McDonald

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