Set in late 17th-century Florence at the Medici court of the Grand Duke Cosimo III, Secrecy tells the story of Zummo, a talented sculptor, and a man on the run from his past. His work pleases Cosimo, who, in secret, commands him to create a lifelike woman in the artist’s favorite medium: wax.
Disappointed in love by his beautiful French wife, Cosimo has instituted a rule of sexual repression, which has led to a community full of spies and informers, backed by torturers and police. This has also led, inevitably, to a situation in which an all-powerful Dominican, Stufa, can abuse the power of the confessional and extract sexual, business and political favors from those who confide in him. Stufa believes that Zummo, now privileged by the secret commission, is a threat to his absolute control, and a gripping battle to the death ensues.
Every character in this brilliantly executed historical hides a secret and most of those, from bastardy to murder, are eventually revealed. While never faltering as a historical novel – the particulars of day-to-day life and the arcana of Zummo’s disturbing art form are not scanted – Secrecy is also a stunning literary piece. The author uses language with as much skill as his hero Zummo uses wax, and the luminous city of Florence reveals a shocking core of corruption and darkness. If you are a fan of Umberto Eco, don’t miss Secrecy. Highly recommended.