The award-winning author of the Stravaganza series has done it again with this atmospheric adventure set in Renaissance Italy. Sixteen-year-old Silvano da Montacuto has wealth, good looks, and a new hawk-but none of these can save him when his bloody dagger is found near a dead body. For his own protection, he is sent to a Franciscan House, where he poses as a novice, or a young monk. There, he lays eyes on Chiara, a lovely novice at a nearby abbey who is also living in secret. When they fall in love, their secret identities make it impossible to reveal their feelings to one another.
Murder seems to have followed Silvano, and soon several other dead bodies turn up. Who is committing the crimes? Will a young man accused of multiple murders be able to clear himself? And what about the girl he adores? Fans of Mary Hoffman's critically acclaimed Stravaganza series won't be disappointed in the romance, colorful web of intrigue, and rich, marvelous setting.
Hoffman (the Stravaganza series) once again whisks readers off to Italy, this time in the 14th century, for this highly entertaining mystery-farce hybrid. Readers can pick up clues from the third-person narrative that alternates among the four main characters. Sixteen-year-old Silvano, a noble, is in love with flirtatious young Angelica, the wife of a wealthy middle-aged sheep farmer named Tommaso. When Tommaso is murdered, Silvano becomes the prime suspect (especially since his dagger was the murder weapon). Silvano, along with his falcon (hence the title), seeks refuge at Giardinetto, a Franciscan friary, where he works for Brother Anselmo, mixing pigments for the frescoes in nearby Assisi. Meanwhile, Angelica is secretly thrilled her odious husband is dead; she gains control of her husband's profitable business and keeps an eye out for a socially well-positioned husband. Isabella, wife of 20 years to the cold, wealthy merchant Ubaldo, fantasizes about her first love, Domenico. Chiara, despite being sent by her brother to live in the abbey at Giardinetto (next door to the friary), dreams of falling in love and raising a family. After several murders occur at the friary, including that of a visiting Ubaldo, Silvano, Brother Anselmo (who turns out to be Domenico) and Chiara uncover the identity of the murderer. As the solution surfaces, so do the true loves of the main characters. Even though many readers will guess where the plot is headed, the pleasure is in the journey. Ages 12-up.