The Book of Unholy Mischief, by Elle Newmark

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark: Book CoverFinished audio 1-12-10, rating 3.5/5, fiction. pub. 2008

Luciano is a penniless orphan living on the streets of 1498 Venice, Italy.  He has a pet cat, a friend Marco, and an unrequited love named Francesca.  One day he is plucked off the street by the head chef at Doges Palace and given a place to sleep, food to eat and a job in the kitchen.  He is grateful to the chef, Maestro Ferrero, and resists pleas from Marco to steal and search for clues to a sought after book of alchemy.  Everyone n Venice is looking for this book that contains the secrets of wealth, health and long life and there are some who think maestro might know about it.

Maestro Ferrero can alter the emotions and moods of the people who eat his beautiful and exotic dishes.    By watching the head chef, Luciano yearns to become a master chef and learn to use food as his maestro does.  Maestro takes Luciano under his wing and trust is built, only Marco wants to destroy that loyalty to find the book and tempts Luciano at every turn.

I love Venice and this book took me back to the palace, canals, gondolas, and food.  I really felt transported, even if this takes place in 1498 and we were there in 2008 (a few photos here).  I think Newmark captures the atmosphere perfectly and her descriptions of the fine food made me want to study cooking myself.  The story itself was good.  There were many twists and turns and I never knew what was going to happen next, so it was a success.  I thought the ending was okay, but not great.  I will read anything that takes me back to Venice and this didn’t disappoint.  A very fine debut novel.

I borrowed this audio book from the library.