In the last ten months, I have devoured four books by [Bremerton, WA] author Gary McAvoy. His series is called The Magdalen Chronicles. Book 4 is entitled The Vivaldi Cipher that includes a cameo appearance by composer Antonio Vivaldi. [Here is the link for Book 1: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781954123021 ]
The story opens, briefly, in The Vatican in 1740, as the College of Cardinals is about to vote on a replacement for recently deceased Pope Clement XII. Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni casts his vote, collapses and dies. He was the frontrunner to become Pope. Vivaldi was one of many artists who benefitted from the Cardinal’s patronage. On his deathbed, Ottoboni confesses to Vivaldi, who was also a priest, that there was a “scandalous operation run by…Cardinal Niccolo Coscia and…the Camorra.” Vivaldi was appalled by the confession and left clues to the secret in a series of handwritten sheet music.
For those who do not know it, the Camorra is a branch of the Italian Mafia. One of its biggest “fund raisers” is/was art forgeries. Coscia kept a diary in which the forgeries were detailed and it was kept up to date by succeeding generations of the Camorra. Coscia had a home on the Grand Canal in Venice called the Palazzo Feudatario that was purchased with embezzled Papal funds. In the present day, this Palazzo is the home base for the continuing art forgeries.
Father Michael Dominic of the Vatican Secret Archives (and lead character) and his friend Hana Sinclair (Le Monde journalist and heiress to a Swiss banking fortune) visit Venice where Michael has an appointment with Paulo Manetti of the Cardinal Bessarian Library. The Library is launching an antiquarian manuscript exhibit and wants Vatican input and help. Manetti shows Hana and Michael a Vivaldi music score that is unfamiliar to Hana. She had studied music and when she hummed the music, it did not sound like Vivaldi’s works. Countess Donatells Vivaldi Durazzo, a descendant of the famed composer, had donated the manuscript to the Library. Hana and Michael pay the Countess a visit and discover more Vivaldi scores that do not sound like his known works.
Hana calls on her friend and mentor, Professor Livia Gallo, to look at the scores. Livia realizes that they contain a Solfa Code that she is able to decipher using the letters TIASENO, which are the most commonly used letters of the alphabet. From this, the Team discovers the plot to forge art masterpieces from the Vatican Museum and others. The Vatican Museum alone contains some 70,000 works. At any given time, only 20,000 of those are publicly exhibited. The dollar value of the original art is worth billions of dollars/euros/pounds at today’s valuations.
As Michael, Hana, Livia and the rest of Michael’s team start their investigations, bodies start to turn up. Hana’s grandfather sends her a bodyguard, Marco Picard, a former Green Beret and agent of the French Surete. He, along with two Swiss Guards from previous books, are the muscle of Team Michael.
There are plenty of Camorra allies aligned against them. Among them are the head of Venice’s Camorra branch, an immoral Venetian Cardinal/Camorra soldier, an unscrupulous art dealer and the master forger.
If you have not read previous books by the author, it is my suggestion that you start at the beginning. All four are VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
GO! BUY! READ!
–Jim Harris, retired book sales rep
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