The Book of Unholy Mischief
by Elle Newmark
In late 15th century Venice, a poor starving urchin, Luciano, resorts to food theft in order to stay alive. He is caught stealing a pomegranate by the chef of the Doge. But the wise chef takes pity on him and gives him honest work and shelter.
Through Luciano's inexperienced eyes we spy on the "unholy" activities of the influential figures of the city from the perspective of the servant's door of the Doge's palace. They plot and commit murder in their attempts to obtain a secret and magical book which, reputedly, holds the answer to all their problems: immortality, love, money….and more. It is so important, even the Pope in Rome is desperate to find it. Apart from the young hero's observations, the story progresses with his growing knowledge of the power that food can have on other's lives and desires.
Driven by ambition and curiosity he is desperate to learn more, especially about the special ingredients used by the chef. However, the chef seems reluctant to share his knowledge and is continually testing the young rogue. Can he be trusted? The story is richly descriptive of food and also the historical details of Venetian life in the Renaissance era.
In addition to the mystery surrounding "the book" there is an oppressive atmosphere of dark menace and cruelty throughout the story.
Dreaded Cappe Nere guards patrol the city. As the various rivals search for the mysterious book, anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path suffers horribly. It is only a matter of time before Luciano's curiosity gets him into trouble….
Paul Stribley, a member of the Southway Readers Group, Plymouth