The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis
Posted by Caitie F on September 8, 2012
Summary from goodreads:
A sweeping, intense historical thriller starring two of the great minds of Renaissance Italy: Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Based on a real historical mystery, and involving serial murder and a gruesome cat and mouse game at the highest levels of the Church — it was the era of the infamous Borgia.
This is an epic tale exploring the backdrop of the most controversial work of the Italian Renaissance, The Prince. Here, Niccolò Machiavelli, the great “scientist” of human behaviour becomes, in effect, the first criminal profiler, while his contemporary and sometime colleague, the erratic genius Leonardo da Vinci, brings his observational powers to the increasingly desperate hunt for a brilliant, terrifying serial murderer. Their foil and partner is the exquisite Damiata, scholar and courtesan. All three know their quarry is someone who holds enormous power, both to tear Italy apart, and destroy each of their most beloved dreams. And every thrilling step is based on historical fact.
Usually, when I finish a book, I immediately know what I want to rate it. This one, not so much. This isn’t quite “go out and get it” but is more than “if the premise sounds good, go get it”. I think that if you like historical, suspenseful mystery/thrillers, you will like this book, yet it more literary than most books in that genre.
I didn’t like that it moved slowly at points. It took me about 60 pages to get into the story since there was so much that had to be set up and revealed before you could really get into the mystery and the characters that I found most interesting: Machiavelli and da Vinci. I thought the courtesan, Damiata, added a twist to the story and I loved how the reader never really completely knows what she knows, but she also distracted from the characters I loved most.
I love reading about Italy, it is one of my must-visit place in the world. But I am glad I wasn’t living in this Italy. There is war, rape, and lots and lots of murder. It is not a bright and happy Italy, it is a vicious and scary Italy which, while not a place you want to go, is exciting to read about.
The mystery had me turning the pages well past when I should have stopped. It was great because you never had all of the information. There was so much secrecy and dishonesty that it helped carry the intrigue until the end. It was also very graphic. The serial killer did not leave his victims in one piece.
Overall, it was a very good piece of historical fiction. I like that the author used primary sources when investigating all of this for himself. Who knows if his assumed perpetrator is the right one, but it sure made for an exciting read, other than some very very slow chapters.
My other problem? I have never read The Prince and now I want to.