The seventh of Dorothy Dunnett's eight book House of Niccolo series is Caprice and Rondo. The Niccolo books have never engaged me quite as thoroughly as her earlier series The Lymond Chronicles did. Those are among my very favorite historical novels ever. The Niccolo novels are good, but I have tended to find them a bit harder to follow. However, in the particular case of Caprice and Rondo, I was able to follow the action quite readily. Perhaps as the series comes to a conclusion the answers to the many mysteries are becoming clear.
This book opens with Nicholas in Poland. He's been kicked out of his company and exiled from Scotland and the Netherlands as a result of his actions in the last book. (This is another reason the Niccolo books are a bit harder to like: Nicholas does some pretty clearly bad stuff. Whenever Lymond seemed to be up to something bad, it turned out he was being misunderstood.) In Poland he spends a winter womanizing and drinking with the pirate Pauel Benecke, who wants him to join in a pirate mission the following summer. But Anselm Adorne, the upright burgomaster from Bruges who misunderstands Nicholas pretty comprehensively, and who stands in a role vaguely similar to Lymond's brother Richard Crawford in the Lymond books: a good man who tends to regard the hero as an enemy because he doesn't understand him, shows up on a mission to try to recover damages from an earlier piracy committed by Benecke. Also, Adorne and the Patriarch of Antioch, Ludovico da Bologna, intend to head to Tabriz to negotiate with the Persian Uzum Hasan for support against the Turks. (So far, every character I have mentioned except Nicholas is an actual historical character. Dunnett does this extravagantly, on occasion, I think, using characters mentioned very briefly in historical records, which allows her to claim a character is historical but treat said person just like a fictional character.) And Nicholas' long-time friend Julius and his wife Anna also intend to go East, to Caffa in the Crimea, to negotiate new trade agreements for their part of Nicholas' former Bank. Inevitably, Nicholas is drawn into accompanying Anna and the Patriarch to Caffa and Tabriz, and he's also drawn into (or does he do it on purpose???) shooting Julius so he can't come, and frustrating Adorne's plans so he has to go home, mad at Nicholas again. Follows then plenty of action and danger and sexual tension, (this last as Nicholas, frustrated by 8 years of separation from his wife Gelis, must resist his attraction to Julius' beautiful wife), as things go horribly bad in Caffa, and Nicholas ends up trekking to Moscow, and a meeting with the mysterious Greek with a Wooden Leg, Acciajouli, who was involved in the very first of Nicholas' escapades from Book 1.
In parallel, we follow Gelis and Katelijne back in Scotland and Bruges, as the evil David de Salmeton hoves into view again, ready perhaps to revenge himself on Nicholas by attacking those close to him. At the same time Gelis begins to work to resolve her conflicted feeling about Nicholas. Of course, eventually Nicholas is lured back to the west, to confront difficult revelations about his family, and about his relationship with Gelis, and with others, and to try to rebuff various threats to his family and friends.
Much is resolved: perhaps almost too much. Some of the eventual revelations are a bit lurid, and perhaps a bit too reminiscent of some "revelations" in the Lymond books. Nonetheless, the book is fascinating reading, absorbing, colourful, complex. Another fine chapter in an excellent series of historical novels.