A Comedy of Murders

George Herman, Author
George Herman, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $23.95 (355p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0064-6
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The first in a projected series of historical novels by Herman ( Carnival of Saints ) takes place in late-15th century Italy. Someone is plotting the death of Il Moro, the Duke of Milan. One attempt is inadvertently foiled by the dwarf Niccolo. As a reward he is placed in the service of Madonna Valentina, one of Il Moro's favorites at court. As the monastery-educated Niccolo explores the hidden passages within the Duke's castle, gathering information as an agent for the Countess Bergamini, he discovers the path to ``the madman's tower'' where Leonardo da Vinci dissects corpses to increase his understanding of human anatomy. Repeated attempts on the life of Il Moro misfire and lead to a bloody vendetta. The body count rises as various victims are poisoned, drowned in the castle cesspool or abandoned in a locked torture chamber. At least 12 bodies pass under Leonardo's scrutiny. As they do, he and Niccolo gather evidence to uncover the mysterious assassin known as the Griffin. Who is the Griffin and who has employed him? Is it the Borgias, the King of France or Il Moro's own brother? Herman weaves a complicated yet rich tapestry of political intrigue and adeptly places Leonardo and Niccolo in the center to sort it all out. (July)
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