The guildspeople of 15th century Bologna are well respected and well organized. Among these is widow Avisa Baglatoni, an accomplished locksmith, who violates virtually every tenet of Bolognese law by giving succor – and an apprenticeship – to Bernardo, a young Jew newly arrived in town.
After a smooth-talking orator comes to Bologna to collect silver from the townsfolk (including the locksmiths) to melt down and fashion city bells purportedly to warn the populace of invasion, the silver disappears. Who is involved in this theft forms the main plot of the story, but there are myriad subplots involving, among other things, Jewish-Christian relations, unwanted advances to Avisa by the mayor’s nephew, and the efforts of a young woman to become a court artist.
Many of the subplots add nothing save a bit of additional flavor to the novel, the first in a new series. The main characters are attractive, interesting people who struggle against the vagaries of fortune and capture the reader’s imagination and sympathy. But the book is so poorly edited that it becomes distracting to the reader after awhile. Also, the story simply ended without any cohesive explanation as to how the ends got tied up.
A decent first effort by Cooper, but improved editing will help immensely.