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Irene Watson

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Bones of the Dead by Elle Newmark: Book Review
By Irene Watson   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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While visiting Venice, Elle Newmark was so taken by the watery city's history and mysterious ambiance she was inspired to write "Bones of the Dead." As the daughter of a Hall of Fame chef, she cooked up a rich culinary mystery set in the Italian Renaissance, the dawn of humanism. What the much-sought book actually holds, in the guise of recipes, is knowledge: of the beauty of humanity and divinity of every soul on earth, of the openness, the humanness, of "all those teachers in sandals."

iUniverse, Inc. (2007)
ISBN 9780595417391
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (10/07)

“Bones of the Dead” is set in Venice during the Renaissance Period.  Luciano is an orphaned street urchin who has been rescued from the streets by a chef, Amato Ferrero.  Luciano is to be apprenticed to him.  Amato sees something special in Luciano and plans on teaching him more than just culinary skills.  Luciano senses a mystery about his background and why Amato took him in.  He also wonders about the doge that he works for.  Early on in his apprenticeship, Luciano witnesses the doge killing a peasant and then pouring an elixir down his throat.  He doesn’t understand why he would do that to a corpse, but sets out to find out.  Along the way, he learns that the doge is seeking a mysterious book that some believe has the recipe for the elixir of immortality, others believe it reveals the alchemy behind how to turn objects into gold.

The chef Amato knows of the mysteries in this book.  He is more than a chef, he is also a guardian.  Guardians hide secrets in their recipes.  They also create concoctions with their recipes that can affect the outcome of decisions that are made in politics.  The food sets the mood for how the guardian feels the outcome of a meeting should be.  The chef Amato says, “…the prep of food was a tool to illuminate the mysteries of life.”  In Luciano’s haste to find the answers to secrets, he reveals information to untrustworthy sources, this puts himself and Amato in danger.  The answers are revealed to him, but at a great cost.

“Bones of the Dead” is an incredibly written novel.  I found myself hooked immediately.  The author traveled to Venice to create this story.  She has a gift for describing the sights, sounds and smells of Venice exactly how you would imagine at that time.  She also draws upon the political intrigue and drama that involved The Church.  I really liked that the Chef had a great deal of integrity within himself.  Under his guidance Luciano was destined to become a great man with integrity, however, because of his background and human nature, it was a struggle.  I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying this novel; however, I highly recommend it to people that enjoy historical intrigues.  If you like books like “The Da Vinci Code,” you will be thrilled to discover “Bones of the Dead.”  I look forward to reading other novels by Elle Newmark.


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