The Mosaic Crimes Review
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One evening in June of 1300, respected poet, scholar, and recently elected prior of Florence, Dante Alighieri, is roused from his studies to investigate a gruesome murder. Outside the walls of the city, at the long-abandoned abbey of Saint Jude, a master mosaicist has been found dead, his face covered in quicklime. Beside him, his final masterpiece is left unfinished.

Dante soon discovers that the abbey was meant to be the site of a new university. And his search for answers leads him to a mysterious group of scholars who have arrived in Florence to plan the new university. The group of scholars, who call themselves the Third Heaven, gather each night in a dark tavern, owned by an ex-Crusader, where they’re entertained by a beautiful and mysterious dancer known as Antilia. All of them knew the murdered mosaicist—but each one has a different suggestion about what may have happened to him.

Did the mosaicist have information that someone wanted to keep hidden? Does the secret involved Boniface, the pope who’s rumored to have a dark past? And what does the man’s death have to do with the pentagram that was found etched into his body? Dante suspects that the answers to his questions lie somewhere in the Third Heaven—but he’s not sure where to begin.

The Mosaic Crimes is a detailed mystery, seasoned with philosophical debate. Each character in the story is a new mystery; each one appears to be hiding some sort of secret that may or may not have something to do with the murder. With each new person that Dante questions, there’s a new possibility.

Though it’s a well-written story, however, The Mosaic Crimes isn’t an easy read. In the beginning of the book, there are two pages of notes on the characters—which comes in handy because it’s sometimes difficult to remember which Cecco is which and who’s an expert in what. At the end of the book, there are several more pages of notes and glossaries that provide background information. All are necessary for following the story. And if you happened to take a philosophy class in college, that’ll help too—because Dante gets into philosophical debates with just about every character in the book.

A carefully researched mystery filled with richly detailed descriptions, interesting characters, and plenty of history, The Mosaic Crimes isn’t for those who like to do a little light reading before bed. But if you prefer to give a book more time, energy, and concentration, you’ll have no problem getting wrapped up in Dante’s mystery.

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