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IMPRIMATUR, Rita Monaldi & Francesco Sorti

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ROME, SEPTEMBER 1683.

 

Following the death of one of its guests, the Donzello Inn is placed under quarantine. Plague is suspected, but in reality poison had been at work. Fellow guest Abbot Atto Melani, with the aid of the innkeeper's apprentice, begins a secret investigation into the circumstances surrounding the murder. At a time when Ottoman forces march on Europe, the pair uncover court intrigues that threaten the balance of power in Europe and one man's plot which, if successful, would deal a devastating blow to the Catholic world.

 

From the front flap:

Meticulously researched and brilliantly conceived, Imprimatur contains startling revelations that have been concealed for centuries. It is a captivating thriller that sheds new light on the power struggles of seventeenth-century Europe, the repercussions of which are still felt today.

 

First published to great controversy in Italy in 2002, Imprimatur was boycotted by the Italian press and publishing world. Despite this, the novel has become a European bestseller; it has been translated into 20 languages with editions published in 45 countries. Over 1 million copies have been sold to date.

 

Imprimatur takes on the form of a correspondence (dated 2040) from a bishop to his former student, now Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican. Enclosed with his letter is a manuscript the bishop has hidden for many years: the typed memoir of the young apprentice at the Donzello. The two journalists who entrusted the bishop with the manuscript have mysterious disappeared. Searching for them has been fruitless and there exists no published version of the memoir. The bishop's own investigation of the memoir has been inconclusive (his findings concerning several historical details is presented as an addendum at the end of the book). In short, the bishop seeks conclusive imprimatur - official approval for the publication of the manuscript, or disapproval. However, if the memoir is factual then the revelation contained therein is scandalous to the Catholic Church.

 

Whether the revelation is true or not, there is no denying that the novel is a meticulously researched piece of fiction, entertaining, and well-written, not forgetting well-translated. History is presented through the eyes of the apprentice, aspiring gazetteer but ignorant of the world beyond Rome. His ambitions are helped along the way by castrato and French spy Atto Melani who offers to educate and advise him in return for his assistance. The apprentice soon learns of the politics of the time, of medicine, music and astrology from his new found mentor and the other learned guests confined to the inn. However, the apprentice is both trusting and mistrusting of Melani. The Abbot's reputation has certainly preceded him and this is apparent from conversations the apprentice overhears from some of the other guests. The apprentice's wariness toward Melani is heightened as he becomes more like his mentor and is able to make accurate deductions concerning Melani's situation. Nonetheless, the pair, aided by two colourful characters (one whose speech is delightfully translated by Peter Burnett who as translator deserves a mention), are able to work together to uncover the secrets the guests have been hiding.

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