Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady by Diane A.S. Stuckart. The second in this Leonardo da Vinci series is as entertaining as the first, though the mystery itself is not as complex. The master is still employed as chief engineer, artist, and director of entertainments at the Duke of Milan’s court. While returning from testing a portable bridge in a nearby stream, two of the apprentices, including our returning narrator, Dino, discover the body of a young woman underneath one of the castle’s towers. The victim is identified as a servant to one of the Duke’s wards, Contessa Caterina, and Leonardo and Dino suspect foul play. After a second of the Contessa’s servants is found dead beneath a tower, they contrive in insert Dino into the household in the guise of a new female maid. The list of suspects is rather sparse this time and the mystery ends with rather a convenient conclusion, but once again Stuckart does an excellent job of describing the activities of the artist’s workroom and the daily lives of the apprentices. More pages are spent in this volume on Dino’s internal struggles with first love and whether to continue working for Leonardo. Newcomers planning to read the entire series should definitely start with The Queen’s Gambit however, as many plot points from the first book are revealed in the second.

Fans of the artist should also note that Martin Woodhouse wrote a three-book series in the 1970s with da Vinci as the lead detective. I have not read them yet, but for those interested, Medici Guns is the first in the series.

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