Portrait of a Lady
Diane A. S. Stuckart
Berkley, Jan 2009, $14.00
In 1483 Milan, Dino is the apprentice to court engineer Leonardo Da Vinci. The great Renaissance Man knows so much about the world, perhaps more than anyone else, but remains ignorant that Dino is actually a female named Delfina; women cannot be apprentices.
When a servant of Contessa Caterina falls to her death, the Duke of Milan expects Leonardo to investigate as Bellanca worked for his ward. Leonardo and Dino make inquires including visiting the tower where the fatal incident started. They conclude this was a homicide and they will need an insider working amidst the servants of the Contessa. Leonardo arranges for Delfina as Dino dressing like a female servant to obtain a position working for the Contessa. Soon a second person employed by the Contessa is murdered. Meanwhile the Duke’s Captain of the Guard Gregorio is attracted to Delfina, who reciprocates but fears his connections to both murdered women make him a prime suspect.
The second Leonardo Da Vinci Mystery (see THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT) is an engaging Renaissance Era whodunit although Da Vinci plays a lesser (but critical) role than he did in the initial mystery as much occurs under the stars with Dino as Delfina starring. The story line is fast-paced yet contains a strong sense of time and place as the audience will feel they are visiting late fifteenth century Lombardy Province. The investigation is a cleverly designed historical investigation that also challenges Delfina’s divided feelings towards her employer, and the Captain.