Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries



Lucrezia Borgia and the
Mother of Poisons

by Roberta Gellis

Lucrezia Borgia, recently arrived in Ferrera from Rome to become the reluctant bride of her third husband Alfonso d’Este, is accused of poisoning a lady-in-waiting. Those knowing the history of the Borgia family might well assume this act to be true. But Gellis correctly portrays Lucrezia as the strong, cultured and eventually well-liked person she was. Therefore, this “good” Borgia is determined to clear her name by solving the mysterious poisoning, and, as the book progresses, other deaths as well.

This book offers abundant information about rooms, manners, clothing, food, entertainment and intrigue at one of 16th century Italy’s most famous and luxurious courts. Most of the action occurs in Lucrezia’s rooms. Gellis is true to the reality that aristocratic women like Lucrezia were expected to avoid public life beyond displays of personal wealth and decorum, thus demonstrating their absolute faithfulness to their often philandering husbands. But the story’s limited action and sometimes minute descriptions of even the smallest details of Lucrezia’s day can deaden the plot line. “Poison” might be better read as an historic text rather than an historical mystery. Note, too, the lack of an historical background epilogue, or bibliography citing some of the resources used. For such information seek out “Lucrezia Borgia” by Sarah Bradford.



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