The Queen’s Gambit
Diane A. Stuckart
Berkley, Jan 2008, $23.95, 336 pp.
At the court of the duke of Milan, the royal painter and inventor is Leonardo Da Vinci. He has his own studio and apartments in the palace and his apprentices reside there including Dino. Leonardo may be a genius in many things but when it comes to Dino he doesn’t have a clue that he is a female. She chose to run away in order to learn from the master himself how to be the best artist she can be at a time when women were nothing more than ornaments.
The French ambassador is in Milan for a treaty signing and the two men vie for a painting by Leonardo. They decide the winner of a living chess game will possess the painting. During a break in the game, the Conte de Ferrara walks away and doesn’t return. Dino finds him with a knife in his chest and when Leonardo gets the Duke, he is told that the Conte was the new ambassador to France. The Duke of Milan charges Leonardo with finding the killer a Herculean job because there are hundreds of people staying at the palace and the motives of those that want him dead range from the personal to the political. Dino risks her life to help her teacher.
Fans of historical fiction and historical mysteries will find THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT to their liking. Leonardo Da Vinci comes alive in this tale as a true renaissance man who hunts down criminals, invents a wrist watch and is a great teacher who shows his apprentices the intricacies of painting. Yet in spite of the deep look into the life of the grandmaster, Dino steal the show as she proves to be an able assistant while trying to hide her gender from those close to her.