Portrait of a Conspiracy: Da Vinci’s Disciples, Book 1

Written by Donna Russo Morin
Review by Kristen McQuinn

In Renaissance Florence, revenge rules supreme, and the feud between the powerful Medici and Pazzi families colors nearly every aspect of life. When Giuliano de Medici is brutally murdered in a church, his brother Lorenzo turns the city on its head to seek out his killers and deliver vengeance upon the hated Pazzis. A key piece of evidence, a portrait known as the Feast of Herod which depicts the conspirators, has disappeared from the Palazzo, along with Lapaccia, a woman from a renowned house. Her friends, women from diverse backgrounds who form a secret group of female artists, must recreate the missing painting to help restore peace to their beloved city and bring the missing woman back to the good graces of the Medici family. With the help of Leonardo da Vinci, the women risk their reputations, families, and lives to pursue their forbidden love of art and help draw out the conspirators seeking to wrest control of Florence from the Medicis.

Morin pens a tight narrative, with vivid imagery and complex plotting throughout. Her character development is good, though I would have liked to see more depth in some of the women in the group. However, because the novel focuses mainly on one of them, Viviana, it is forgivable that the others are not quite as well fleshed out. Morin’s research is thorough, and I enjoyed her use of Da Vinci as a mentor to the ladies. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.