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Rizzio by Denise Mina - Review

Saturday, November 25, 2023

I got this book from the library because it caught my eye on a shelf end as I was walking in one day! I've met Denise Mina but have never read anything by her so I thought I would change that. This book is historical fiction and tells some real events that happened in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. I don't know too much about her life at all, although I have read another book which looks at the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, but I can't for the life in me remember what book that is, right now. I had forgotten about him, entirely, though. But anyway he is her husband and she is pregnant. They live in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, but the country is changing. There are Protestants who want power, and there's Elizabeth on the throne in England. Mary's child will have just as much a claim to the English throne as Elizabeth because Mary and Darnley share a grandmother (and in fact he did inherit the throne and unified England and Scotland - he was James VI of Scotland and James I of England, if you're not familiar with him). Darnley is a total rotter though and he has sold Mary out. He is jealous of her friend, Rizzio, who is Italian, so conspires with other noblemen to murder him.

Mary is in her apartments eating when the conspirators break in. They hold her at gunpoint and murder Rizzio. He ends up with so many stab wounds that no one is sure exactly which killed him. Mary is obviously hugely betrayed by Darnley but knows she has to escape with her life and the life of her baby, so she knows she has to keep Darnley on side. The other nobles turn on him, next, and they are also interrupted by the city's keepers, who turn up asking what's going on at the palace. Mary has to escape to people who are loyal to her, and she is helped in this by one of her ladies in waiting, whose husband she had recently executed. Aren't old royals absolutely bonkers? I'm not sure exactly what was true and what wasn't in this book and that's aboslutely fine because I liked it and was entertained by it anyway!

The book is a novella, so only short, and the writing is rich, and you can imagine exactly the palace and everything inside it. Denise also writes poetry and I tihnk that shows. The narrative is meta in parts, where the chapter titles tell the reader what is going to happen, and where the prose sometimes says things like 'this will happen later'. I think it's really effective and especially when portraying something that really happened in the past. The book is part of a 'dark tales' series about Scottish history so I think it's really effective in getting that across to the reader. In all I'm giving this five out of five and I would read other things in the same series! 

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