Nancy Goldstone has done a masterly job of turning the political complexities of fourteenth century Naples into a highly readable, fast-paced account that had me turning the pages eagerly, with real enjoyment. And whilst the subject matter might sound like some obscure byway of long-gone European history, the panorama of human greed and frailty that is laid out has amazing parallels with our world today - down to the fall of the super-merchant bankers who over-extended credit to Edward III of England, surely a sub-prime borrrower if ever there was one. What emerges is a perennial lesson of history: whilst those in power can live more comfortably off the backs of those who graft to provide them with goods and taxes, they are constantly constrained to jockey for position on the shifting sands of pledges, allegiances and betrayals that force their hand, with deadly diseases like plague and pestilence acting as the joker in the pack. The effort required of the popes, the royals and their courtiers to maintain their precarious footing in a cut-throat world is utterly relentless, with death and anarchy a short distance away. Royal court or boardroom, what's the difference? This is a really colourful book that does full justice to its subject matter, and presents the fruits of scholarship in a way that both educates and entertains.