Rizzio by Denise Mina

Today I am sharing my thoughts on Rizzio by Denise Mina. True crime reimagined, this book really did intrigue me. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Owned Copy
Release Date: 02 September 2021
Publisher: Polygon

About the Book

This breathtakingly tense work is a tale of sex, seduction, secrets and lies, one that looks at history through a modern lens and explores the lengths that men – and women – will go to in the search for love and power.

It’s Saturday evening, 9 March 1566, and Mary, Queen of Scots, is six months pregnant. She’s hosting a supper party. Outside, Edinburgh is bustling. It’s full of the Great and the Good and the Idiot Sons of the Rich, here for a Parliament that will take Scotland by the shoulders and turn it from England to face Europe.

Mary doesn’t know that her Palace is surrounded – that, right now, an army of men is creeping upstairs to her chamber. They’re coming to murder David Rizzio, her friend and secretary, the handsome Italian man who is smiling across the table at her. Mary’s husband wants it done in front of her and he wants her to watch it done …

My Thoughts

I’ve been kind of fascinated by the story of David Rizzio and Mary, Queen Of Scots, since Mandie and I revisited The Palace of Holyrood a few years ago, on one of our many trips to Edinburgh. If you didn’t know that this story actually happened, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was an over the top historical crime drama, destined to be the next big thing on Netflix. Royalty, betrayal, conspiracy and murder. What’s not to binge watch? But this isn’t make believe, it’s true crime reimagined, a modern take on Scottish history and one that packs quite the punch.

This is a compact book, but don’t let that fool you. It packs quite the punch. Set, in the main, on that one fateful night back in 1566, it follows the conspirators, the victim and the Queen, all of the main players caught up in a night of shocking bloodshed. Turning the facts of the night and spinning them from various points of view, Denise Mina captures the sense of anger, regret, jealousy and greed that led to the murder of the Queen’s private secretary, David Rizzio. The author exposes, through a tight and well crafted narrative, layer upon layer of lies, distortion and secrecy that show that not all is as simple as first thought. The misogyny, the absolute desire for power, and the naivety of those who believe they are in the driving seat, are all portrayed so brilliantly that you can truly picture the scene, imagine yourself in the heart of the palace as the travesty take place, and can feel the tension and heart pounding fear that emanates from the pages, particularly in poor Rizzio, the sacrificial lamb in an ill-fated bid to overthrow Queen Mary and to put the ultimate power in Scotland back in the hands of a man.

I loved Denise Mina’s take on this story, clearly well researched but so beautifully told. She has really brought this period of Scottish history for life, and, whether a newcomer to the the subject, or someone who revels in all the gory details of the country’s scandalous and often bloody past, I think there is something for everyone within these pages. Sometimes violent, often emotional, and definitely packed with tension, the book shows perfectly how the battle of the sexes is far from a new concept.

I’m certainly looking forward to reading more in the series of Darkland Tales as they are released. If they are half as interesting and well crafted as this one, they are not to be missed.

About the Author

Denise Mina was born in East Kilbride in 1966. Her first book, Garnethill, won the CWA Dagger for Best First Crime Novel. She has won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year twice, and the McIlvanney Prize twice. She is a presenter of TV and radio programmes, and appears regularly in the media. 

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