cover image The Mosaic Crimes

The Mosaic Crimes

Giulio Leoni, , trans. from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel. . Harcourt, $25 (321pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101246-6

Set in Florence in 1300, Leoni's absorbing historical features Italy's premier poet, Dante Alighieri as sleuth. Master mosaicist Ambrogio, who was at work in a ruined church, is found suffocated and disfigured—his head encased in a layer of caustic quicklime. Dante, plagued with migraines, resentful of Boniface VIII's attempts to consolidate papal power and generally irascible throughout, embarks on a solo investigation. At a seedy tavern, Dante encounters a group of intellectuals known as the Third Heaven, who meet secretly to discuss art and be entertained by an exotic dancer, Antilia. Despite the distraction of the alluring Antilia, Dante conceives intriguing theories of how victims attract killers and how illness serves as punishment for sin. Leoni's first publication in English is a well-researched labyrinth of medieval Italian history and politics. (Feb.)