Title:Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold
Author: Christopher Grey
Award-winning novelist Christopher Grey sets his recent tale in 1493 when Bologna was under the tyrannical rule of an Italian nobleman, Giovanni Bentivoglio.
The opening scene of Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold finds our narrator and principal character, Orlando Novi at the graveyard of the Church of San Vitale in the middle of the night where his father, Giorgio has recently been buried. A grief stricken Orlando informs us that he has come to the cemetery to recite a poem-something more than the mere inscription on his father's tombstone which only mentions his date of birth and death as well as his occupation as armourer.
Orlando hopes to meet with his father's spirit who will disclose to him how his father died. Unfortunately, the spirit does not show itself and Orlando is left with the nagging mystery as to what exactly was the cause of his father's death.
Orlando informs us that on the night of his father's disappearance there was a knock late at night on the door of his home and he heard his father conversing with another man. His father, knowing that Orlando was awake, tells him that he must go to his workshop and if he is not home by morning, he will send a message. These are the last words Orlando ever spoke to his father who later was found floating in the Reno Canal. It seems that his father had slipped on the bank of the canal and fell into the water-something Orlando finds difficult to believe.
While Orlando is roaming about the graveyard, he encounters a mysterious disfigured intruder who is digging up an ancient grave containing the remains of a Black Magician. Orlando observes that the hooded man escapes with a casket. Who is this strange man and why did he rob the grave? Before exiting the graveyard, Orlando discovers near the robbed grave, a black cross, heavy and smooth, with two bars, instead of one. Orlando bundles the cross into the folds of his cloak.
A few days later while Orlando sits in the Basilica of San Domenico, he once again comes in contact with the mysterious hooded man who tells him that he knows he has the black cross and that he is to bring it at midnight to the graveyard the next evening. The hooded man warns Orlando that failing to bring the cross will mean certain death of his mother, grandmother and himself.
As the yarn advances, readers are introduced to Leon Cassini, Orlando's father's employer who has taken a liking to his mother. Cassini feels terrible about Giorgio's death and commits himself to support Orlando's family. He even offers Orlando an apprentice job in his workshop.
Orlando is not exactly ecstatic with Cassini's proposal and suspects that he may know something more about his father's untimely death. Cassini eventually divulges to Orlando that his father took his own life, which astonishes Orlando. Cassini follows up his revelation recounting to Orlando that one year prior to his father's death, Leonardo da Vinci, artist, inventor and engineer, who no longer trusted his employer, the Duke of Milan, approached Bentivoglio, ruler of Bologna with something to sell for gold.
As it turns out, da Vinci had a drawing of a gauntlet unlike any that has ever been seen. It was one that protects the hand and moreover, it can be used as a weapon of remarkable and incredible potency. Orlando's father was ordered by Bentivoglio to reproduce the gauntlet, but unfortunately, according to Cassini, he never succeeded and was so distraught that he took his own life. Orlando is not convinced and strongly believes his father was murdered and this sets him on a path to track down the murderer.
structures the ensuing events with intriguing subplots involving
historical facts, black magic, an all-powerful super weapon, murder,
violence, deception, villains, romance and conflict that unfolds in
impressionistic bits and pieces that snags his readers. The prose is
both eloquent and at times poetic with writing that is spectacular in
its precise, accomplished nature.
Another satisfying element are the characters that are intriguing as well as unpredictable that keeps readers guessing as to their true intentions. In addition, Grey is a master in building story and creating memorable moments particularly regarding Orlando that engender conflicting and unexpected emotions. If you have never heard of Christopher Grey I highly recommend you get to know him and pick up a copy of Hand of Silver, Hand of Gold. You will not be disappointed.