Denise Mina's historical thriller Rizzio gives action-packed pacing to the gasp-inducing, true-story murder of the personal secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots.
In 16th-century Scotland, Mary, Queen of Scots, appoints David Rizzio as her personal secretary. Rizzio's appointment isn't arbitrary--he is a learned man who can translate to and from four languages, intelligently advise on drafting legislations and proclamations, as well as communicate with courts of Europe. Although Rizzio prefers men, the appointment causes rumors of an affair, soon bolstered by Mary's pregnancy. Rich and powerful usurpers to the Scottish throne seize upon the unfounded gossip as fodder to force the rightful Queen of Scotland into transferring all power to Lord Darnley, her husband. As king, Darnley promises to favor the more affluent members of the kingdom. The plot is to kill Rizzio and cause enough distress to Mary politically and emotionally that she will miscarry and be too weak to oppose the transfer of power. On the night of March 9, 1566, 80 men burst into the queen's dining room at Holyrood Palace to beat and stab David Rizzio to death. The facts of Rizzio's murder are well documented, but Mina (Conviction; The Long Drop) expertly adds substantial character development and a heart-kicking pace to transform this centuries-old tale of murder into a visceral and compelling read. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer