August 24, 2010
Review of "The Book of Unholy Mischief" by Elle Newmark
It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors about an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.
As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets. It is not long before Luciano is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.
Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life into an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key. (from Barnes & Noble)
If you are a reader that is looking for a fast-paced, quick to it book, The Book of Unholy Mischief is not for you. If, however, you are looking for a book that simmers slowly, builds with an exotic, leisurely scent of savory spices and peels back, layer after layer, as a succulent orange or oversized onion does, you won't be disappointed by this visual masterpiece.
I loved the colorful depictions of Venice in the late fifteenth century. So vivid was author Elle Newmark's writing and characterizations, even after finishing the book, I can still easily visualize Venice in my mind and the wonderfully written Luciano and Chef Ferraro. I can feel the squalor and grime under my feet of the poorer calles that Luciano strolled and can sense the aromatic herbs from Chef Ferraro's private closet. I can feel Bernardo rubbing my leg with his head, feel his purrs and smell his wet fur, as well as hear the various cries coming from the street merchants, the sailors and the prostitutes.
That alone would make The Book of Unholy Mischief a worthy and fantastic read. After all, aren't the best writers capable of allowing their readers to not only see in their mind's eye the location and the characters but to hear and even smell the story? Ms. Newmark allows the reader to use all his or her senses and to a fabulous extent.
But let's not shortchange the story which, if you allow it time to build, is phenomenal on its own. Historical fiction lovers will delight not only in the day to day accounts of Renaissance Venice but also with the mystery surrounding the infamous book of the title, which not only supposedly holds the key to immortal life, wealth and riches but brings about grief, death, murder and ties to Jesus' crucifixtion and resurrection. Readers who prefer their books with little or no objectionable language and sexual situations will be satisfied with The Book of Unholy Mischief as there are only brief descriptions of slight violence, mostly relative to street living, and one torture scene.
The Book of Unholy Mischief was a fascinating read and has stayed with me, even after turning that last page and closing the book. I felt vested in the characters, so much so that I experienced both joy and sadness throughout the book and into its conclusion. The mystery over the book built slowly and paid off greatly in the end. Portions of the book dealing with cooking and succulent descriptions of food will leave your mouth watering and your stomach rumbling. And on a purely shallow note, the cover is subtle, understated and yet still luscious and inviting.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Book of Unholy Mischief to one and all and I would love to see this flavorful story on a movie or t.v. screen, as I do think the story would certainly be justified on film.
The Book of Unholy Mischief is available for purchase at major booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
For more information about author Elle Newmark, please visit her website HERE.
Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.
Be sure to stop by Psychotic State on Wednesday, August 25, when author Elle Newmark will be sharing her story on being a published author over the age of forty and how not giving up put her on the bestseller list. It's not to be missed!