Written by Richard Vetere

Inspired by real events and people in early 17th-century Rome, this novel follows the exploits of young painter Mario Minitti, temptress Fillide Meladrone, Archbishop Pietro Aldrobondini, Ranuccio Tomassoni, and Nunzio Pulzone. All are drawn into the tale by the fact of their having been painted by the famous Caravaggio. This is an intriguing premise for a book, and glimpses into the lives of these fascinating individuals provide ample entertainment. Vetere’s strength as a novelist and dramatist (he’s also an accomplished playwright and screenplay author) shows in his sensitive and vivid portrayal of artists of this era and their art. In his best scenes, we feel we are breathing the pigment-laced air while standing at the painter’s side. But, although I found much to like about the characters and in their dialogue, I sometimes had difficulty focusing on the plot because of distractions. Specifically, the story seemed to be constructed with an aim of including as many sexually detailed scenes as possible, few of which improved the narrative. Repetitions of phrases and information, and periodic awkwardness in the wording, were problems as well. Readers who don’t care for highly spiced bordello scenes may want to skim, or pass on this one.