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The Sign of the Weeping Virgin (Five Star Mystery Series) Hardcover – January 9, 2013


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Product Details

  • Series: Five Star Mystery Series
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Five Star (January 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1432826239
  • ISBN-13: 978-1432826239
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,014,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of historical mysteries will thoroughly enjoy this chance to visit the Italy of 1480 in the company of real-life historical figure Guid'Antonio Vespucci, a Florence lawyer. Returning from a government mission, he finds his home city distraught over the kidnapping of a wealthy young woman, Camilla Rossi da Vinci, supposedly by Turks. The Florentines are equally abuzz, though, over a painting of the Virgin Mary in Guid'Antonio's family church that has miraculously begun to shed tears. Tasked with investigating by city leader Lorenzo de' Medici, who's preoccupied by his war against the pope, Guid'Antonio partners with his favorite nephew, Amerigo, and uncovers even more mystery, including a secret message painted by artist Sandro Botticelli on the church's wall. Backed up by sure-handed storytelling and scrupulous research into the period, White creates richly evocative descriptions of Renaissance-era Florence certain to please the amateur historian and armchair tourist. (Dec.)

Review

"A Florentine lawyer must solve a murder to keep his city from imploding.  One hopes that White's clever tale, meticulously researched and pleasingly written, is the first in a series that will bring Florence and its many famous denizens to life." - STARRED Kirkus Review

"Fans of historical mysteries will thoroughly enjoy this chance to visit the Italy of 1480 in the company of real-life historical figure Guid'Antonio Vespucci, a Florence lawyer.  Backed up by sure-handed storytelling and scrupulous research into the period, White creates richly evocative descriptions of Renaissance-era Florence certain to please the amateur historian and armchair tourist." - Publishers Weekly Review

"Intrigue and danger . . . White's debut Renaissance mystery is overflowing with historical details and fascinating subplots . . . the author's knack for describing settings is stellar.  Ian Morson writes historicals with a similar tone." - Library Journal

More About the Author

Alana White's fascination with the Italian Renaissance led to her first short historical mystery fiction, then to the full-length novel, "The Sign of the Weeping Virgin." Set in Renaissance Florence, "The Sign of the Weeping Virgin" features lawyer Guid'Antonio Vespucci and his adventurous young nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, as they investigate crime in Renaissance Florence. Alana's articles and book reviews appear regularly in Renaissance Magazine and the Historical Novels Review. In young adult+ books, she is the author of Come Next Spring, a novel set in 1940s Appalachia, and a biography, Sacagawea: Westward with Lewis and Clark. She is currently working on her second Guid'Antonio Vespucci mystery.

Customer Reviews

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I look forward to her next book.
shutterbugger
The writing is very detailed and slow to start, having many characters and sometimes requiring a look back to see what happened or who they are.
Sharon
This book was a real treat for me -art, history and mystery all meshed into one beautifully written novel- excellent prose.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mike Coleman on January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Critics are praising Alana White's elegant prose and her skill in weaving a vast amount of historical detail into the plot of this fascinating mystery novel set in Renaissance Florence. I heartily concur, but also must note the considerable wit at work in the book--one of the many qualities that make it such an enjoyable reading experience.

It comes through in dialogue: "God, I've died and gone to heaven," her protagonist Guid'Antonio Vespucci says over a meal of roast pork and fried ravioli. "No, you've come home to Italy," remarks the man's nephew. It comes through in White's cleverly drawn minor characters, especially the all-knowing, sardonic Cesare, Guid'Antonio's manservant. And it comes through in the way White archly points out the parallels between 15th-century Florentine society and our own--the religious zealots whipping the masses into a frenzy of fear and misdirected blame, the deep divide between the haves and have-nots, the very character of Guid'Antonio, as full of angst, including the marital variety, as any male protagonist in contemporary fiction.

I found myself taking an odd sort of comfort in these parallels--the more things change, right? But they also helped deepen my connection to the story, the characters and their way of life so exotic, so different in so many ways from our own.

White takes us everywhere we've ever fantasized about in Renaissance Florence--an upper-class dining room serving up specialties of a fabulous cook, the studiolo of Lorenzo de Medici (where il Magnifico himself is holding forth), even the elegant apartment where Botticelli's Primavera holds pride of place in its original setting, framed and hanging over a daybed. Can you imagine being part of this culture, where so much art was springing up all around you every day?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Erin Al-Mehairi on February 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, by Alana White, is a new novel that brings to life Italian history, specifically in Florence, much of which I had no prior knowledge. Italian history not being one I'm quite as well read or educated on, this book's through research and information circled with a fictional mystery was very enlightening and descriptive.

Most people who enjoy history have heard of Amerigo Vespucci. His uncle was Guid Antonio Vespucci, a lawyer in Florence during the early 1400s, a time when the arts were flourishing and the Medici family was in power. The Vespucci family was also a major family influence in the area and Guid Antonio supported the Medicis and had a close friendship with Lorenzo de Medici, or Lorenzo the Magnificent. This was a time and place ripe with intrigue, political maneuvering, and families sparring for position. White utilizes all this in her book, mixed with the Renaissance players such as artists Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci, while also delighting readers with savory details of lavish meals, affairs, and controversies.

As a protagonist, Guid Antonio was interesting and his conversational thoughts unique. He was at all times seemingly confused, yet also extremely intelligent. Pious, yet also flawed. This made him quite the original detective and his dialogue with supporting characters, like his nephew Amerigo, carried subtle nuances and light humor.

The best part of this book was White's revelatory research and historical presence. Due to this her characters were well detailed and very human. We come to know their passions and vices, their secrets and faults, as well as their documented successes and legacies. It wasn't a fast-paced thriller, but more of an educated and historically detailed mystery.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I don't read enough historical novels and it shows when I do. The last one I read was Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom. That was historical, but in England, where I know a little more of the history. I know so little about Italian history and most of the cities and history and events in Alana White's book were new to me. I would think this would be a 5-star review from anyone who really enjoys Renaissance Italy. I found her writing to be outstanding, which can't always be said about an author's debut novel. The dialogue stayed true to the period and I felt I was back in that time. Keeping up with the many characters and similar names was a challenge, but those were how the names were back then.
I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in Renaissance Italy. I liked Guid' Antonio Vespucci and found myself rooting for him. The ending was a good one and wrapped up the book well. Good job.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lynette E. Ingram on January 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In her impressive historical novel, The Sign of the Weeping Virgin, Alana White reprises Florence in the 15th Century through her protagonist, Guid' Antonio Vespucci. As the novel opens, Guid Antonio, accompanied by his nephew Amerigo, has returned to Florence after a diplomatic assignment in France.
A respected lawyer and trusted friend of Florence's most prominent citizen, Lorenz di Medici, Guid' Antonio finds some disturbing changes in the city he loves. The city's depleted treasury has created a number of desperately poor citizens. A young woman has disappeared, supposedly abducted by the Turks and sold into slavery. Even more baffling, the painting of the Virgin Mary in the Vespucci family church has begun to weep. This phenomenon is seen by superstitious Florentines as a sign that the city is cursed by God because Lorenzo di Medici refuses to end his war with Pope. As a "Medici man," Guid' Antonio must deal with new and as yet, unidentified enemies: "Whatever the circumstances, Florence, Lorenzo, and Guid'Antonio, the Medicis and the Vespuccis, were one and the same."
As Guid'Antonio and Amerigo set out to unravel these mysteries, they are beset by rumors and whispers, as well as political turmoil which escalates as the Turkish king moves to expand his Islamic empire and the Pope surreptitiously acquires a large tract of land too close to Florence.
In Guid' Antonio Vespucci, Alana White has created an intelligent, compelling protagonist who invites further development in subsequent novels. However, the center of this historical mystery is Renaissance Florence, a vibrant presence painted by the writer in rich lights and shadows, much like the paintings of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, both of whom appear as characters in the book.
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