Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Book of Unholy Mischief; Elle Newmark

All I can say is yummy. From beginning to end: yummy. Elle Newmark's newest book is an historical thriller wrapped in a delicious disguise as a tour of a 15th century Venetian kitchen. I was invited to review this novel by Pump Up Your Book Promotion and received a (signed!!yay!!) review copy. The image here is of the audiobook, but the cover is the same. Via Simon & Schuster. I spent most of this book hungry. I warned you. lol :) If you are a fan of Ariana Franklin's work, this is definitely one to try.

The plot is deceptively simple: the Doge's chef rescues a near starving street urchin named Luciano & makes him the chef's apprentice. Luciano, along with most of Venice, becomes obsessed with a fabled book that is rumored to have recipes not only for making gold, but for immortality itself. And wealthy Venetians want it. The apprenticeship is a huge opportunity for an uneducated bastard who'd been on the streets of Venice since he was five. Hints are placed carefully so that soon you realize there is significantly more happening to this story than you thought there would be. Venice herself, that grand lady, as well as the food, the cuisine, and most especially her politics are all characters who play a part.

Adjective upon adjective wells up in my mind when thinking about The Book of Unholy Mischief. Lush, sensual and decadent are only three of them. Feast for the senses, 'purple prose' for epicures, to use a romance cliche in the best sense of the phrase. The relationships are complicated by lust, greed, curiosity, furtiveness, revenge and the need for secrecy. Knowledge is power. Venetians, running a shipping empire, know this more than others. For some the quest drives them ever higher, ever onward. But who will pay the price?

The narrative is nonlinear and Ms. Newmark leads the reader along by the stomach, which is entirely pleasant, I assure you. There are a few words and phrases in Italian (also French and Spanish) which are translated at the author's website, here. I realize this review is short, but in my defense I have to say I honestly found very little to critique in The Book of Unholy Mischief, indeed very little to quibble over. For me this is a book to savor much like a ripe peach- sweet, intense, full of delicious juices and you're sorry when it's done. Like homegrown tomatoes, Ms. Newmark's book is the best of the bunch. Is that enough food metaphors for you? This is a book I would have purchased on my own- run out and buy one yourself. It's worth it's weight in ripe peaches! Or homegrown tomatoes. lol :)

PS~ Ms. Newmark has a blog where she discusses book signing in Venice and her age as well as a video walking tour. Click here.


Marg said...

I have this on my TBR list! I am looking forward to reading it even more now!

Bookwormom said...

I hope it'll be well worth the wait, Marg. I can't wait to see what you think. :)


Ms. Bookish said...

This book sounds so good! I think I'll keep my eye out for it. I sounds positively decadent!

Bookwormom said...

Decadent is definitely the word. ;0