Lucrezia Borgia and the Mother of Poisons

Written by Roberta Gellis
Review by Ilysa Magnus

In this, the first in a new series by the famed romance writer turned historical mystery writer, Lucrezia Borgia is, of all things, the heroine. This is not the Lucrezia that history has portrayed as the incestuous, murderous bane of Italian Renaissance existence, but a Lucrezia who is beautiful, wickedly insightful, and smart.

One of Lucrezia’s ladies in waiting has mysteriously died. After the finger-pointing stops (where else?) at Lucrezia, she takes on the role of lead investigator. Using her considerable persuasive skills, Lucrezia sends her maids, her friends and the new acquaintances she has made at the court of Ferrara to cull information, put the pieces together and, ultimately, discover the killer.

Gellis imbues Lucrezia and her retinue with life. Lucrezia, still reeling from her brother’s murder of her second husband, and just married to Alfonso, heir to the Duke of Ferrara, develops a growing attachment to her new husband. There are domestic scenes of meal sharing and myriad details about costumes of the period. If I had any difficulty with the book at all, it was with the conclusion, which leaves the reader a bit hanging…but this is clearly an invitation to the second book in the series.