The action takes place in Rome in 1683. The characters are the residents of an inn, the Locanda del Donzello, and when one of their number suddenly becomes ill, plague is suspected and the inn placed under quarantine. Among this motley crew is Atto Melani, a spy in the service of Louis XIV. Using the young serving boy (who is also the narrator) as a guide, together they explore the underground passageways beneath the city and uncover a plot to assassinate the Pope – an alliance between William of Orange and the Vatican.
It is impossible not to draw parallels between this story and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose; both are historical thrillers with a cleric as a central character and a young apprentice acting as his sidekick. Nevertheless Imprimatur is a satisfying novel in its own right with engaging, believable characters. Peter Burnett must be congratulated for perfectly reproducing the humour. Nothing lost in translation here.