Sounds like the start of a bad joke, however this is instead a clever and indepth book. Luciana is the beautiful young whore of Milan who is asked to pose for Botticelli as Flora, offending the artist without truly realising why she steals an unfinished cartone of the Primavera. When she finds her housemate murdered and realises that she was the target she takes action by going to Santa Croce in the hopes of finding sanctuary. Instead she finds Brother Guido a young novice monk who she has unwittingly implicated in the theft, suddenly they are both on the run, an incongruous pairing who merely want to find safety again. This is until they take a closer look at Botticelli's planned masterpiece and try to reveal the secrets that are hidden within. Their quest takes them across Italy and involves them in the political machinations of the Medici family.
Fiorato tries to do for Botticelli what Dan Brown did for Da Vinci and it kind of works. For me the book is at its best when it is focused on the characters of Luciana and Guido, both flawed and judgemental but bound by a belief that they need to do the right thing and prevent political conspiracies taking over their country. While Guido is the noble, well educated and pious monk Luciana is the gutteral and foul mouthed young trollop. It is a pairing which works well as during their quest they obviously begin to appreciate each other more and both reveal that they have their own useful types of knowledge.
This is an interesting novel and the only reasons why I don't give it 5 stars is because there are some coincidences which are just too implausible and the level of detail that Fiorato goes into with the painting can leave you slightly dazed. Names of flowers, legends of Italy, mythological characters, politics - it all finds its way in there. You end up looking at the painting on the back cover a little too often to check if what you're reading is possible. However all that aside it is an excellent read and towards the second half I was desperately trying to read it in one go to see how things would end. Despite all the details, plotting and espionage for me it was the characters that drove this novel forward and made me desperate to reach the conclusion. This is a nice addition to Fiorato's collection of Italian based novels, each one presenting something different but equally as much of a page-turner.