The Book Of Unholy Mischief – Book Review

bookofunholymischiefThe intrigue took place in my youth, when I served as an apprentice to the doge’s chef in Venice. I first suspected some unholy mischief when the doge invited an uncouth peasant to dine with him in the palace. In the time-honored tradition of servants everywhere, I assumed my post behind the slightly open service door to the dining room in order to spy, and I marveled at the sight of them together. – from The Book of Unholy Mischief, page 1 –

Luciano, a street urchin and orphan, is rescued from an uncertain future by Chef Ferrero and made a apprentice in the palace kitchen of Venice. Once ensconced there, his life becomes one of intrigue. It is the mid-fifteenth century and all of Venice, is talking of a magical book which holds the key to love, immortality and power.

In those days a rumor was exciting Venice like a tickling sea breeze from the east. Everyone from the servant classes to the aristocracy was whispering about an old Byzantine book said to contain the formulas of ancient sorcerers. It was told that the book, thought to have been lost in antiquity, was actually hidden somewhere in Venice. I would eventually come to understand how the urgency created by this rumor spurred the chef to take an apprentice. – from The Book of Unholy Mischief, page 11 –

Luciano is witness to murder, kidnapping, and torture as the doge and other powerful Italians seek the book. But it is the parallel story which I enjoyed even more than the mystery of the sorcerers’ book – that of the growing relationship between Luciano and Chef Ferrero.

Luciano, parentless and without direction, is the perfect heir for the Chef who has three daughters but no son. The chef is at heart a teacher, and he uses the lessons of food to show Luciano that not only is God in each of us, giving us the potential for greatness, but that there is untested strength inside us as well. He shows Luciano the truths of life, and teaches him integrity and honesty. As Luciano struggles with maintaining his connections with the street urchins he has befriended and swoons with love for a young girl living in a nunnery, Chef Ferrero guides him toward a future filled with hope.

Elle Newmark has crafted a story full of the lushness of fifteenth century Venice. Her wonderful descriptions of food give the novel color and texture. She captures the evil of greed and wealth which prowled the halls of the palaces and homes of the powerful during that time.

After Venice, I thought I knew debaucery, but I wasn’t prepared for the two-faced tawny opulence of Rome, the Venus flytrap, an exotic beauty with a taste for flesh. Being much older than Venice, Rome had had centuries more to perfect the art of duplicty. While the rest of Italy sang folk tunes, Rome chanted in an ancient basso of contrived moral authority. The unchallenged image of a saintly Rome obscured the life-and-death power struggles festering beneath its gilded domes and embroidered vestments. If Venice was a slut, Rome was a murderer. – from The Book of Unholy Mischief, page 199 –

The Book of Unholy Mischief is a whirlwind adventure story with moral underpinnings. The mysterious book, thought to be the key to so much, represents how far astray a person can go when their eyes are clouded by dreams of power – whether it be power over life and death, power over love, or power over another person. Although set in an historical time frame, the novel is really not an historical novel. Newmark takes some liberties with certain historical facts, but she notes in the afterword: “My primary objective was to tell a good tale.” And in this, she has succeeded.

I thoroughly enjoyed my travels with Luciano through the streets and kitchens of Venice. The Book of Unholy Mischief will appeal to readers who enjoy books about food, but more importantly those who wish to immerse themselves in a story that catapults them to another time and place.



This book is currently on tour through Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

To read more about Elle Newmark and her work, visit the author’s website.

Please follow and like the blue thistle


Skip to comment form

  1. This sounds really good….especially since I just finished a book about 16th Century Italy (Sacred Hearts) that was so interesting. Thanks for the great review!

  2. Great review! I tried picking this up a while ago, but got distracted. Maybe I’ll try again!

    • Mon on August 18, 2009 at 09:11

    Oh this one sounds interesting. Love all that intrigue. Will look into it. Thanks.

    • Kathy on August 18, 2009 at 10:07

    I’ll be reading this book soon, and I can’t wait. It sounds wonderful.

  3. Thanks for your review. ‘ve had this book on my list for awhile, I guess it’s time to move it up.

  4. Nice review, Wendy. I really like the quotes you selected. I have this on my list of books to read but don’t have it yet.

    • Staci on August 18, 2009 at 18:16

    Really enjoyed this review Wendy. I’ve seen this book around and it is already on my TBR list!

    • Pam on August 19, 2009 at 09:21

    Oh man this sounds so good! I keep hearing the title but not actually looking to see what it’s about. Thanks for the review!

    • Memory on August 20, 2009 at 09:44

    Food writing and Venice… I really like the sound of this one.

  5. I just love this title!

  6. This book looks so good!! I’m so glad you liked it! Great review, by the way!

  7. What a great review! I just received this book and it’s going to the top of the pile now!! Thanks for sharing it with us!


    • Wendy on August 25, 2009 at 06:42

    Rhapsody: Sacred Hearts is in my tbr stack too 🙂

    Amy: I really enjoyed it, so I think you should try it again *smiles* But, I think it is one of those books you have to be in the mood to read.

    Mon: You’re welcome – hope you’ll like it. It definitely is filled with intrigue.

    Kathy: I’ll look forward to your review!

    Melanie: You’re welcome – hope you’ll enjoy the book 🙂

    Rebecca: there are some great passages in this book – I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Staci: I will look forward to reading your review at some point!

    Pam: It is a really fun book to read!

    • Wendy on August 25, 2009 at 06:43

    Memory: The food part is what grabbed me initially – but she does a great job with setting too!

    Jenners: It is a great title, isn’t it?

    Stephanie: Thank you!

    Suzanne: Hope you’ll enjoy the read!

  8. I enjoyed this one as well. Nice review!

    • Wendy on September 2, 2009 at 07:07

    Thanks, Swapna! Glad to hear you also enjoyed it 🙂

Comments have been disabled.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)