Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Book Review - Tasha Alexander's The Dark Heart of Florence

The Dark Heart of Florence by Tasha Alexander
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: March 9th, 2021
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Yes, it has been inconvenient trying to incorporate Colin's recently revealed daughter into their lives, but Emily is trying her best, despite appearances, or more rightly, accusations, that she let a dead body end up in her step-daughters bed. It's not like the bed was being occupied by anyone other than the corpse! Colin's ex, Kristiana von Lange, left their daughter a palazzo in Florence. A palazzo which is reputed to have a hidden treasure secreted in the walls and has been the target of a string of burglaries. This has come to the attention of Colin's shadowy superiors and he has been asked to investigate, discreetly. This means he heads off to Florence with Emily and her friend Cécile in tow making it look like a holiday when really they are to meet up with Colin's colleague Darius Benton-Stone. And Emily really is supposed to be viewing the excursion as a holiday, because Colin can not tell her all the real reasons Florence is important at this moment, but what is she to do when a body just lands at her feet? And no, this isn't the body in the bed, that's later. This is a body that fell off the roof into the courtyard AT HER FEET! The poor corpse is known. He was one of the palazzo's servants. Which makes the case even more interesting. All the servants were carefully picked by Kristiana and therefore aren't your typical servants. But thankfully, like servants everywhere, they are open to a little gossip. Which leads Emily to look into the rumors of the treasure... and the more she looks, the more plausible it seems, but also the more dangerous it becomes. There are corpses of treasure hunters littered in the wake of the rumor. If Emily isn't careful she or someone she loves could be next.

Lady Emily's latest adventure is a breathtaking tale combing the literary heart of The Name of the Rose with the history of The Birth of Venus and a dash of the love letter to Florence that is A Room with a View. I almost feel like what I'm about to say is sacrilege because it is such a classic, but suck it E.M. Forster, A Room with a View is no longer my favorite book set in Florence. Yes, I'm a sucker for murder mysteries solved by a certain Lady Emily, but it's more than that, I felt more connected to Florence as a whole than to just one character's experiences of Florence. This wasn't filtered through the eyes of Lucy Honeychurch, and while you could argue, isn't this filtered through the eyes of Lady Emily? I'd disagree, because Emily is a more reliable narrator, plus the inclusion of a secondary voice from the past lends a more rounded portrait of the city and it's history. So now that I've offended all you Forster lovers, without even ranting about Howards End, let's get back to the most important part of what I said, and that's Florence. I've said this before about Tasha's writing, but it bears repeating, I don't just love Tasha's work for her work, I love her work for how much it connects me back to other things I've loved. She's the center of a mind map that connected me while reading this book to my love of the kitschy Da Vinci's Demons, which was set in Florence, and most importantly to my love of art history. Art history and the Renaissance is more about Florence than you can imagine if you've never studied it. It is literally where the Renaissance started! So to study one you must study the other and because of that I have this big old soft spot for Florence. Tasha brought me back to my first love of the city and made it even more unforgettable. The truth is the whole Lady Emily series combines my love of art and literature, making me agree with Mena about what treasure really is.


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