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The Sign of the Weeping Virgin by Alana White
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432826239
Date: 19 December 2012

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, a historical mystery set in Florence during the rule of Lorenzo de' Medici, explores why a painting mysteriously weeps, who kidnapped a young wife, and the names of those plotting against Lorenzo. The novel is filled with Italian intrigue as Pope Sextus IV tries to unseat Lorenzo and take over Florentine territories.

Slow moving, the story begins when Guid'Antonio Vespucci and his nephew Amerigo return from a sojourn in France on Florence's behalf. Unrest and plotting fill the city now under excommunication by Sextus. The economy is bad and the city fears invasion by the Turks. When a young woman disappears and a painting weeps, rumors fly.

Guid'Antonio and his nephew encounter a young monk pursued by other brothers. When Guid'Antonio asks the reason, none is given. The monk disappears and does not return.

Lorenzo de' Medici asks Guid'Antonio to learn how the weeping painting is triggered and by whom. He also believes the disappearance of the young wife is tied to some plot against him. Bit by bit, Guid'Antonio gathers information.

A pious and devout young woman, the beautiful wife spent much time in church praying. So much so that Guid'Antonio wonders why. She is not rumored to have a lover. He then ponders the state of relations between the spouses.

Making the Virgin weep is too convenient a stratagem. He consults the young Leonardo Da Vinci on the mechanism. Leonardo is only too happy to oblige. The how now solved, Guid'Antonio must concentrate on the who. Political enemies and the church fathers all have reason to dislike Lorenzo.

The political situation continues to deteriorate. Guid'Antonio must shore up those in his own family and ensure others remain loyal to Lorenzo. His mother-in-law is dying and his wife also needs his support.

Meanwhile Guid'Antonio pursues other clues. The husband seems less concerned than expected over his wife's fate. She was a wealthy woman. With her dead, he would gain all of her inheritance.

The novel moves slowly, but picks up speed toward the end. The solution to the kidnapping should surprise most readers. The novel will probably appeal most to those interested in Italian history.

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