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Portrait of a Lady: A Leonardo DaVinci Mystery Paperback – Jan 6 2009

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An Enjoyable Read Jan. 29 2009
By Story Circle Book Reviews - Published on
Format: Paperback
When painter's apprentice Dino discovers the body of Bellanca, lady's maid to Contessa Caterina, he thinks one thing: Why me? This is the second suspicious death he had become involved in at the Duke of Milan's castle in the past few months! The court surgeon rules Bellanca's death a suicide, but Dino and his master Leonardo da Vinci believe otherwise and set out to prove it.

Dino and Da Vinci devise an ingenious plan to disguise Dino as a female--Delfina--and make her Caterina's new servant in order to get information about Bellanca's demise. This is ironic because Dino is actually a female and has been deceiving her master and fellow apprentices the entire time. "Saints' blood, it was not fair!" she exclaimed, "My sex should not have kept me from pursuing the painter's life!" Can Delfina solve the mystery of Bellanca's death before any more of the castle's inhabitants--or she herself--turn up dead? Can she maintain her own secret, or will her true identity be found out and the trust of her beloved master lost?

Diane A. S. Stuckart's novel Portrait of a Lady is an enjoyable, light mystery with lively characters and just enough history to keep it interesting. While a bit predictable, the plot was intriguing. What a mess Delfina got herself into, falling in love with Gregorio, Captain of the Guard, while dressed as a girl! He is aware of her true gender, and if he had revealed this to da Vinci she would have been ruined. Delfina is torn between risking everything for her love interest and remaining loyal to Da Vinci.

If you are in the mood for a medieval castle, aristocratic court, a murder mystery, and an independent female heroine, this is the book for you.

by Jennifer Melville
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
engaging Renaissance Era whodunit Jan. 10 2009
By Harriet Klausner - Published on
Format: Paperback
In 1483 Milan, Dino is the apprentice to court engineer Leonardo Da Vinci. The great Renaissance Man knows so much about the world, perhaps more than anyone else, but remains ignorant that Dino is actually a female named Delfina; women cannot be apprentices.

When a servant of Contessa Caterina falls to her death, the Duke of Milan expects Leonardo to investigate as Bellanca worked for his ward. Leonardo and Dino make inquires including visiting the tower where the fatal incident started. They conclude this was a homicide and they will need an insider working amidst the servants of the Contessa. Leonardo arranges for Delfina as Dino dressing like a female servant to obtain a position working for the Contessa. Soon a second person employed by the Contessa is murdered. Meanwhile the Duke's Captain of the Guard Gregorio is attracted to Delfina, who reciprocates but fears his connections to both murdered women make him a prime suspect.

The second Leonardo Da Vinci Mystery (see THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT) is an engaging Renaissance Era whodunit although Da Vinci plays a lesser (but critical) role than he did in the initial mystery as much occurs under the stars with Dino as Delfina starring. The story line is fast-paced yet contains a strong sense of time and place as the audience will feel they are visiting late fifteenth century Lombardy Province. The investigation is a cleverly designed historical investigation that also challenges Delfina's divided feelings towards her employer, and the Captain.

Harriet Klausner
Mediocre mystery but delightful writing and setting July 4 2009
By J. Fuchs - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As in her first book, "the Queen's Gambit," Stuckart writes in the voice of Dino, apprentice to Leonardo da Vinci, during the time when he was court artist to Ludovico Sforza, the powerful Duke of Milan. The book is rich in the details of the workings of da Vinci's studio and the life of a renaissance city, from the poorer classes to the working middle class and on up through the ranks of the nobility. The writing sparkles and Stuckart makes you feel as if you're right in the center of 15th century Italian life.

The mystery itself, involving the suspicious deaths of two servants to the Duke's cousin, the Countess di Sassina, is well set up, although disappointingly easy to solve. But you probably won't care much as the characters are so well drawn and the language so lively. This book does exactly what you want from a historical mystery, namely, to make you care about the people while bringing another era alive. The details are probably more interesting to a female reader (the clothing, for instance, is described with a good deal of specificity), but anyone interested in Renaissance Italy is sure to be entertained.

The second effort from Stuckart did not disappoint and I can't wait until she writes another in this fine series.
I really liked this book Dec 27 2014
By M. Terhune - Published on
Really entertainingly written, obviously researched, I really liked this book. I think it's a little bit excursive in places, but overall the pace is quite good.