Proofs Michael Ennis The Malice of Fortune

ISBN 13: 9780771030758

The Malice of Fortune

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9780771030758: The Malice of Fortune

A sweeping, intense historical thriller starring two of the great minds of Renaissance Italy: Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Based on a real historical mystery, and involving serial murder and a gruesome cat and mouse game at the highest levels of the Church -- it was the era of the infamous Borgias -- The Malice of Fortune is a delicious treat for fans of Umberto Eco, Sarah Dunant, and Elizabeth Kostova.
 
This brilliant novel is an epic tale exploring the backdrop of the most controversial work of the Italian Renaissance, The Prince. Here, Niccolò Machiavelli, the great "scientist" of human behaviour becomes, in effect, the first criminal profiler, while his contemporary and sometime colleague, the erratic genius Leonardo da Vinci, brings his observational powers to the increasingly desperate hunt for a brilliant, terrifying serial murderer. Their foil and partner is the exquisite Damiata, scholar and courtesan. All three know their quarry is someone who holds enormous power, both to tear Italy apart, and destroy each of their most beloved dreams. And every thrilling step is based on historical fact.

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Review:

An Exclusive Essay by Author Michael Ennis

I began The Malice of Fortune with the rather modest ambition of writing a novel that featured Machiavelli as a detective; perhaps he could use the precepts of The Prince to solve a crime. As I dove into my research, I soon took particular interest in the closing months of the year 1502, when Machiavelli was a junior Florentine diplomat at the court of Cesare Borgia, the celebrated "Duke Valentino," who at the time was playing this deadly political chess game against a cabal of mercenary warlords known as the condottieri--a bloody political drama that Machiavelli would later place at the very center of The Prince.

Although Valentino's court was located in the remote fortress city of Imola during those final months of 1502, it attracted all sorts of interesting and nefarious characters, among them the Duke's innovative military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci. And after a little more digging, I discovered some intriguing connections between Leonardo and Machiavelli: they both abruptly left Duke Valentino's court shortly after the end of the year, under circumstances that historians have never fully understood, and then worked quite closely together in Florence. So clearly some mysterious and fraught relationship developed between them in Imola.

Still thinking in terms of a detective story, I envisioned something akin to a Holmes & Holmes partnership. Leonardo, who famously dissected corpses, could be a Renaissance forensic pathologist. As for Machiavelli, his political science is so deeply rooted in the study of human nature that he can also be considered a pioneer in the field of psychology. In fact, I was rather startled to learn that at the time he was working on The Prince, Machiavelli wrote a friend that when he entered his study, he imagined himself physically in the presence of prominent figures from history: "I converse with them and interrogate them about the motives for their actions. And they answer me--I get inside them completely." This sounded so uncannily like a modern criminal profiler that I just couldn't resist pushing the detective conceit a step further.

So here I started searching for a crime, but one based entirely on documented fact; if Leonardo's and Machiavelli's forensic abilities could be found in their actual studies, the crime – and the criminal – had to be equally authentic. I pored over five hundred year old cold cases and instead of just one crime, I discovered an entire "crime cluster" that began with the murder of the Pope's son in Rome, followed by a horrifying litany of related abductions, rapes, mutilations, and murders. As for the suspects, several powerful, violent men, most of them these mercenary condottieri, could be circumstantially linked to all the crimes. More remarkably still, each of these suspects is mentioned specifically by name in The Prince, all of them having played leading roles in the events at the end of 1502 – and all of them were known personally by both Leonardo and Machiavelli.

This evidence brought my sleuthing-geniuses premise squarely back into the domain of documented history: I had discovered a true crime story – involving, as it turns out, a brilliant serial killer--interlaced with one of history's pivotal political events. Although this was a story Machiavelli, for very good reasons, decided to keep to himself, The Prince contains artifacts of it, once you know what you are looking for. As Machiavelli confesses to us at the beginning of his narrative, there is a "terrifying secret I deliberately buried between the lines of The Prince." The words are my creation, but they are based on admissions that Machiavelli made later in his life. The truth that can be found between the lines of The Prince – a revelation of man's capacity for evil far more ghastly than anything Machiavelli wrote explicitly in the text--is no mere fictional invention. With consequences that have resounded throughout the subsequent course of Western culture and history, the dreadful secret of The Prince is all too real.  

About the Author:

MICHAEL ENNIS taught art history at the University of Texas, developed museum programs as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, and works as an independent curator and consultant. He has won several awards for art criticism, and written for such magazines as Esquire and Architectural Digest, on topics as diverse as business, national defense, and politics. But when people ask him what he does, he only claims to be a writer of historical fiction. His first historical novel, Byzantium, was the true story of a Viking prince exiled to the court of the Byzantine Emperor; his second, The Duchess of Milan, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, History Book Club featured selection, had a six-figure mass market sale, and was a bestseller in Italy, where it is still selling. Michael lives in Dallas with his wife, Ellen, a television producer, and their Australian Shepherd, Zoë.

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