Historical novel set in 1930s SINGAPORE
Academic mystery set in Venice
20th September 2022
The Medici Murders by David Hewson, academic mystery set in Venice.
The Medici Murders is a mystery and it is set in Venice. So far like many a great David Hewson thriller. But The Medici Murders is different… It is much more of a ‘cosy’ mystery with an academic overlay. At the centre of the story are the questions of who, five centuries earlier, had killed Lorenzino de’ Medici, who himself had murdered his cousin Alessandro de’ Medici in Florence. Alessandro was an important figure in the clan that was the effective royal family of Tuscany. After the murder Lorenzino exiled himself to Venice, where he lived peacefully for eleven years. History tells us his executioner was a thug called Francesco Bibboni – but who employed him and how had Lorenzino been tracked down? This is still not known.
David takes the mystery and builds a story around it. TV historian, Marmaduke ‘Duke’ Godolphin, had a plan to rebuild his flagging career. He had documentary evidence that pointed to the ‘very famous’ employer of Bibboni. The evidence had not been authenticated and had come to him from a source whose name he knew but had never met. It was sensational, but nevertheless he believed it (because he wanted to believe it). He arranged for Arnold Clover, a British archivist who had recently retired to Venice, to review the documentation. He was confident of the result. Duke was in Venice with a group of acolytes to announce his discovery to the world. Then it all went wrong. Duke was found (early in the book – no spoiler) dead with a stiletto through his heart at the exact spot on the body where Lorenzino had been murdered centuries previously. The Venetian police call on Arnold to help them. Then, in some ways, the story turns into an Agatha Christie / locked room mystery. All the acolytes are suspects – and all have reasons to have wished Duke dead. All are questioned by Arnold and the police. The denouement is quite unexpected.
As ever, location is critical to David’s books. He has said that if one of his stories can be transplanted to another location, then he has failed in his writing. Venice comes through loud and strong. It is a city which he clearly loves and knows intimately. The historic and geographic references are all painstakingly accurate. His descriptions of some of the restaurants that Arnold visits, and some of the food he consumes, are mouth watering.
The Medici Murders is a change of pace and direction for David. And it absolutely works.
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