Set in 1508, disgraced lawyer Francesco Angeli finds himself the unwilling houseboy of Michelangelo. When the body of a young woman is pulled from the Tiber River, Angeli recognizes her as a whore from his favourite brothel. He starts out simply to inform those who cared about her, but is drawn into a search for the one responsible for her death.
The Wolves of St. Peter’s is a compelling mystery, full of twists and turns. Nothing – and no one – is what it seems. In what I consider the mark of a good mystery, the truth did not enter my mind as a possibility until the shortly before it was revealed.
The characters are beautifully drawn. The historical detail is rich and, I suspect, more accurate than in most historical novels. The reader experiences the full spectrum of life in sixteenth century Rome – the pollution in the Tiber, the squalor of shacks being built willy-nilly against private homes (narrowing the streets and inconveniencing residents who can no longer use the front door), the stench of raw sewage. This is contrasted nicely by the splendour of the Vatican and elite of the city. The dichotomy in personality and lifestyle between the two artists, Michelangelo and Raphael, further emphasizes this contrast.
I did find the use of modern language in a piece of historical fiction to be a bit jarring. Because of this, it took time for me to get used to it before I could truly immerse myself in the story. However, it was well worth the effort. Very enjoyable.