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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The King And I
This is an immersive fictional historical mystery hidden inside a historical possibility (billed as one causing great offence in Italy). Death and the plague threaten an inn in Rome; but how is this connected to dirty doings at a number of courts and in turn linked to the Turks besieging Vienna? Our chums have to wrestle in out in the best traditions of Holmes and of...
Published 12 months ago by Charles Vasey

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars overwhelmingly tedious
This novel, set in 17th century Italy is like a cross between Dan Brown and Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose - but I found it practically unreadable. The authors seem to have read every available document on the period and are intent to include absolutely everything in the text - pages and pages of contemporary quack remedies, recipes, lives of courtesans etc. The plot...
Published 16 months ago by Mrs. M. Safranek


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The King And I, 1 Jan 2014
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
This is an immersive fictional historical mystery hidden inside a historical possibility (billed as one causing great offence in Italy). Death and the plague threaten an inn in Rome; but how is this connected to dirty doings at a number of courts and in turn linked to the Turks besieging Vienna? Our chums have to wrestle in out in the best traditions of Holmes and of Poirot. The mystery unravels slowly over the 600 pages (though with lots of resting points for you to tidy up your notes) both because it is the nature of the piece and because the authors like to lay on the historical detail with a trowel. If you enjoyed the Aubrey/Maturin novels with their asides about cooking, or medicine, then you are really going to enjoy Imprimatur; the authors love the lulling tones of lists. Those of you who prefer a sparer narrative thread are going to weaken badly.

The historical setting fitted well within my reading; and some of its incidents are already celebrated in novels and films. However, the supposed controversy (about which I can say no more without spoiling) seemed rather feeble to me.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the effort..., 22 Aug 2009
By 
Carolyn Walton (Warwickshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
I am a little reluctant to write a review, as I have never done one before and am worried about making a fool of myself. However I loved this book so much that I feel that I must say something to encourage others to read it. I came across it by chance and knew nothing about the authors or its background. I was intrigued enough to buy it, as I enjoy historical thrillers and within reading the first few pages I was hooked. Initially I did struggle to get to grips with all the different characters in the inn and in the end I wrote myself a list of them with a short description of each one. This helped immensely and I was even able to dispense with it after a few more chapters. I was happy to invest a little effort in reading this book, as I was well rewarded. In fact I found by doing this, I became more involved in the story - I even got out my tourist map of Rome to follow where the events were happening - (N.B. I do feel a bit silly confessing this.) Some may criticise this book, but for me, its slight imperfections make it even more endearing and I count it as one of my favourite books of all time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed masterpiece, 19 Dec 2011
This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
i started this book with great expectations, some of which were met. However on completing it, I would not agree with the description by "The Herald" on the back cover of the paperback edition, as a book which "delivered what Eco could not", presumably a reference to Eco's "The Name of the Rose". The scene is Rome, September 1683 at a time when the Turks were laying siege to Vienna and all Christian Europe fearful of the outcome. Enter the Dramatis Personae, visitors and staff in an inn when one of them dies of suspected plague-or is it murder? I freely admit I was hooked by the statement (again on back cover) that the book was published amid great controversy in 2002, and boycotted by the Italian press and publishing world. I can only assume this was due to additional explanatory material in the end notes, since the novel itself does not -in my opinion- merit such a boycott.
The writing is superb,the characterisation brilliant, with many interesting historical facts scattered throughout. I honestly cannot say if I was pleased or not by the revelation on the last page "A note on the authors" that sequels have been written. Part of me would have liked Imprimatur to be a "one off"
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and excellent fun, 8 July 2009
This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
If you have a historical bent, or want to get away from the here and now, read Imprimatur before it is turned into a film. You will find youself cooped up in a seventeenth-century Roman inn, barred and bolted from the outside by the authorities, because of a death within, put down to plague. The cast of characters includes a castrato turned secret agent, a grandee fallen from power, a courtesan, a religious maniac, a drunken innkeeper. The guests' predicament is at first survival, but comes to turn upon a political intrigue at the highest levels of society. They seem to be shut in but an escape is found which only offers further risk and entrapment. The narrative is long but never dull. The improbable story is developed with skill and conviction. The authors - who write as a single voice - have done a good deal of research into the beliefs and science, or pseudo-science, and not least the politics of the time. There are some startling transformations, including that of Louis XIV's pious and placid Queen, but this is fiction and it is vigorous and fun and an escapist read. Apparently the re-publication of Imprimatur was blocked in Italy because of its final take on Pope Innocent XI. Whatever the truth of this rumour or story, it summarises the spirit of the book and underwrites its appeal.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars overwhelmingly tedious, 29 Aug 2013
By 
Mrs. M. Safranek "bookworm" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imprimatur (Kindle Edition)
This novel, set in 17th century Italy is like a cross between Dan Brown and Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose - but I found it practically unreadable. The authors seem to have read every available document on the period and are intent to include absolutely everything in the text - pages and pages of contemporary quack remedies, recipes, lives of courtesans etc. The plot concerns a group of people shut up in an inn under quarantine during an outbreak of plague. A young apprentice combines with a castrato abbot (!) in detective work concerning the mysterious life of the disgraced French tax superintendent, Fouquet, a supposedly holy pope who turns out to have feet of clay, and involve much roaming around in the mysterious catacombs under the pavements of Rome. The authors claim that this and their other books were frozen out of the Italian market by publishers under the influence of Berlusconi because their discovery that Pope Innocent XI had lent funds to the protestant Netherlands and was a moneygrubbing character was embarrassing to the Vatican who had planned to canonise him. According to them this is why they are only published abroad in translation where they are best sellers (hard to believe). The translation is clumsy and unconvincing but the poor translator must have had a really hard time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Imprimatur, 27 July 2013
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This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
I bought this with high hopes after seeing the reviews. Unfortunately it promised far more than it delivered. It completely eludes me why this should have caused a furore in Italy. Anyone believing that a 17th Century Pope - who was then a secular as much as a spiritual leader - was exempt from the pursuit of realpolitik knows little about history. Innocent XI was engaged in a running battle with Louis XIV over the rights of Rome as opposed to Louis' wish for supreme authority over the French Church ( a battle Louis eventually lost). There was nothing particularly scandalous about the Vatican having diplomatic relations with Protestant states to counter the interests of an over-powerful France. Similarly financial and trade relations between Catholic countries and Protestant ones were well-entrenched and - as now - were carried on over and above national or religious affiliations.

Is what the authors say about being hounded out of Italy credible? If so, it is a mark of the irrationality of their Catholic fundamentalist compatriots. Or it may of course have been wholly or partly a clever PR ploy. If so, I confess it was part of what attracted me to buying the book. It's not just gullibility; the cloak and dagger does appeal to the imagination.

What started as an interesting idea became tediously over-extended as one seemed to spend page after page traversing underground tunnels below Rome in between receiving extended lectures about aspects of early modern European history. I suppose the latter might have been informative (if misleading)to those with no knowledge of the period. Whoever wrote this certainly had it in for Louis XIV. But frankly the sub-plot take on Fouquet,to anyone conversant with the real history of that period, strains credulity to the utmost. Moreover there is a limit to the number of underground hikes one can get excited about. The book would have benefited from severe pruning. It is not as though (allowance made for this being a translation) the prose was at all remarkable. It was becoming something of an effort towards the end of the main story. But again the resolution of the early modern biological warfare plot lacked credibility and I think I could have arrived at a better plot device for resolving the "cure" element of the plague motif myself. That of the authors is frankly risible. That said, on a positive note I did find the deconstruction treatment and historical notes in the final part of the book compelling reading. If only it had not been so long postponed! The historical notes produced some fascinating information and connections, although many of the conclusions were inevitably speculative - particularly, as the authors noted at several points, where documents were "missing". Novelists can cite the absence of material as mysterious and suggestive; historians unfortunately can not. Nevertheless in some ways these were the most interesting parts of the book. Overall I therefore found this a moderately good but overlong divertissement supplemented by some fascinating historical material. However, be prepared for a slog that ultimately seems disproportionate to the pay-off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something to chew on, 5 Mar 2013
By 
Mrs. T. Miller "smug comfort" (Belfast, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
I have now read both Imprimatur and Secretum, as after Imprimitur I needed more. Indeed, it is a little heavy at times; I quite enjoyed it but if it bothers you skim over it. But it will be your loss. It drags you in, leads you in circles and the second book is even better. Just try and find 'The Vessel'. I did, but it took a combination of carefully reading the notes at the end of the book and searching Google Earth. Even then you need to know what it is known by in present times. That is one of the great things about these books: they lead to other things you simply must discover. You find yourself inserted into an alien but not alien landscape. It is our own past.
It certainly beats the pants off most mystery or detective novels I have read in my life.

What does disturb me: I still do not know the name of the narrator. I suspect it is given at the beginning of the second novel, but haven't found it yet. Perhaps we are not meant to know it.

I really need the next novel, Veritas, translated into an English version. Soon.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ho hum..., 26 Sep 2009
By 
Sholto Spradbury (Perth) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
I had high hopes for this book set in a fascinating period of European history, but i had to force myself to finish it. It isn't all awful, but compares poorly with, say, Neal Stephenson's Baroque cycle, which covers some of the same events, or Luther Blisset's Q, which has a similar subversive and didactic intent. I have a lot of time for stories highlighting the venality and hypocrisy of the papal church, but this was totally unengaging. Period colour is provided by tedious lists of quack medicines, revolting cuisine, astrological correspondences and other hermetic nonsense. The plot is as clunky as a square wheel and as holey as swiss cheese. The authors try to indulge in the grotesque with their characters, but they are so crudely drawn as to be barely there, such that the sentimental finale left me cold. The political intrigue (which is what drew me to the book) is drowned out by the preposterous and amateurish narrative. Don't be fooled by the adoring reviews plastered over the cover and flyleaf.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT!, 5 Sep 2010
This review is from: Imprimatur (Paperback)
One of the best book I have ever read. Totally accurate and fascinating in the same time. There are very few books like this from recent writers. You get to know many details from this period of Europe's history but also many new secrets how things were really going back then. If you interested Europe's history of the 17th century...you cant miss this book!
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2.0 out of 5 stars A slog from beginning to end, 17 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Imprimatur (Kindle Edition)
Why this became a best-seller I can not understand. It is a 'block-buster' sized book with many long turgid passages listing everything from ingredients of medical treatments, through astrological gibberish, to lists of people with no direct relevance to the plot. While undoubtedly well-researched in terms of historical detail of such topics, I do have to ask the question 'why bother?'. I ultimately found I could recognise the onset of such passages and could skip forwards many (Kindle) pages. The plot is thin and hardly surprising - now, a moral and honest Pope really would have been surprising!
There are better books in this genre, save your moneyand your time and buy one of those.
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