cover image Scales of Gold

Scales of Gold

Dorothy Dunnett. Alfred A. Knopf, $25 (519pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58627-4

From the glassworks of Murano to the commercial hub of Timbuktu--and through fearsome peril on land and sea--entrepreneurship, religion, gold fever, friendship and revenge fuel this rich historical romance from a masterful raconteur. In 1464, adventurer and merchant banker Nicholas van der Pole (hero of three previous Dunnett novels) returns to Venice to find his financial empire in jeopardy due to the Crusades and the onslaught of powerful, unscrupulous competitors. Closely guarding the specifics of his mission, Nicholas sets out for Africa and its gold trade, taking with him his closest friend Loppe, guide and former slave; Father Godscalc, a would-be missionary to Ethiopia; Diniz, his impetuous young cousin; and Gelis van Borselen, a strong, brilliant woman who blames Nicholas for the death of her sister. Relying on Nicholas's unflappability, his instinct for leadership and especially his ever-calculating intelligence, the unlikely group make their way deep into the continent's perilous, uncharted interior. Moving briskly from thick jungles to barren deserts to opulent salons throughout Europe, Dunnett ( Race of Scorpions ) fills each page with wit and winning detail. (June)