Mary Hoffman






Allen & Unwin, 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Young Silvano, the son of a rich Italian nobleman, is lusting after the beautiful Angelica. The story opens with him having his poetry recited to her as she sits in an open window. Silvano himself was supposed to have recited it; however he is overcome with emotion so his friend Gervasio does the deed. Unfortunately for the two young men, Angelica is married to a sheep farmer called Tommaso. Further misfortune occurs when Tommaso is stabbed to death in the street – with Silvano’s dagger. There is an added problem for Silvano: he is first on the scene and becomes covered with Tommaso’s blood. Arrest and execution seems imminent. Fortunately his father is an old friend of the abbot of the Franciscan monastery in Giardinetto. Silvano is at once hidden there in the guise of being a novice while his name is cleared.

While this is happening a young girl is having problems of her own. Chiara’s father has died, leaving her without a dowry. Her brother has packed her off to the Franciscan nunnery in Giardinetto, despite her lack of vocation. The two teens soon meet, and they wind up being sent to Assisi to provide paint supplies to artist Simone Martini for his frescoes. Another murder occurs, this time at the monastery, and Silvano and Chiara turn amateur detective to discover who is really doing the murders.

Mary Hoffman's medieval murder mystery spins a web of intrigue on a background of art and religion. I can’t say that it was a page turner for me but it was an enjoyable read. Each character was well portrayed, from the blowsy Angelica to the grim and fanatical Minister General Michele da Cesena, who turns up at the monastery to investigate the mortal sin that was committed there. The reader gets a good insight into life in a religious order and how men and women ended up as monks and nuns because of circumstances rather than vocation.

Dec 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem


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