The Falconer's Knot: A Story of Friars, Flirtation and Foul Play -- Mary Hoffman
The Falconer's Knot begins:
Silvano da Montacuto was not just young, handsome and rich. He was young, handsome, rich and in love. As he rode on a grey stallion along the main street of Perugia one evening in high summer, a hawk on his pommel and his hound pacing behind him, he could hardly have been happier.
Poor old Silvano. When a book opens on a hero that happy, it's inevitable that he's got nowhere to go but down. When the husband of the woman he has been wooing is murdered, of course Silvano is an obvious suspect. Add to that these facts: the man was stabbed with Silvano's dagger, that a blood-covered Silvano was at the scene, and that he fled without trying to explain himself... Well, let's just say that Silvano's future isn't looking quite so rosy.
While Silvano's father tries to find the true murderer, Silvano goes into hiding at a friary. But, like I said -- nowhere to go but down -- his luck gets worse. There is a murder at the friary. A man is stabbed, and now the same people who are supposed to be giving Silvano sanctuary aren't so sure if they trust him.
It's got romance. It's got murders. It's got long-lost love and new-found love and a pretend friar making eyes at a pretend nun. There are descriptions of Simone Martini's* paintings and descriptions of how the different colors were created and lots of details about convent and friary life.
There are a whole lot of characters and multiple story lines to keep straight. I didn't find it a fast-paced read, though I did find it an engrossing one -- but more for the setting and the details of the period than for the characters. I've been putting off reading the Stravaganza books for years simply because I hated shelving them back when I worked at the Monkey (as any bookseller knows, covers with cutouts should be illegal), but now I'm planning to finally give them a try.
Major complaint? This is going to sound silly, but what was with Silvano's horse's name? Every time I read it, it jolted me out of the story. Other names in the book: Celeste, Chiara, Anselmo, Gervasio, Matteo, Taddeo, Tommaso, Angelica, Rufino, Eufemia, Paola, Isabella, Domenico. Ready for the horse's name? Okay, here goes: Moonbeam. How distracting is that?
*According to the book, he may have included a self-portrait here -- he's the doubtful looking guy in the blue hat.