From the award-winning master of crime fiction, Denise Mina re-imagines the "Bonfire of the Vanities,” a series of fires lit throughout Florence at the end of the fifteenth century—inspired by the fanatical Girolamo Savonarola.
Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar living in Florence at the end of the fifteenth century. An anti-corruption campaigner, his hellfire preaching increasingly spilled over into tirades against all luxuries that tempted his followers toward sin. These sermons led to the infamous "Bonfire of the Vanities”—a series of fires lit throughout Florence for the incineration of everything from books, extravagant clothing, playing cards, musical instruments, make-up, and mirrors to paintings, tapestries, and sculptures.
Railing against the vice and avarice of the ruling Medici family, he was instrumental in their removal from power—and for a short time became the puritanical leader of the city. After turning his attention to corruption within the Catholic Church, he was first excommunicated and then executed by a combination of hanging and being burned at the stake.
Just as in Rizzio—her latest novel with Pegasus Crime—Denise Mina brings a modern take to this fascinating historical story, drawing parallels between the febrile atmosphere of medieval Florence and the culture wars of the present day. In dramatizing the life and last days of Savonarola, she explores the downfall of the original architect of cancel culture and, in the process, explores the never-ending tensions between wealth, inequality, and freedom of speech that so dominate our modern world.
About the Author
Denise Mina is the New York Times bestselling author of The End of the Wasp Season and Gods and Beasts. Her recent novel Conviction was chosen as a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick. Rizzio is her latest novel published by Pegasus Crime. She is a regular contributor on the subject of crime fiction for television and radio. Denise lives in Glasgow.
"A wholly satisfying, unnerving tale with eerie connections to our modern world dominated by income inequality, grift and freedom of speech." — Toronto Star
"Denise Mina delivers a taut imagining of the rise and fall of a religious zealot in late 15th-century Italy. Girolamo Savonarola, a proud young man smarting from rejection and appalled by church corruption, embarks on an increasingly militant moral crusade. It doesn’t end well. Weaving together present-day lingo and dry asides, Mina spotlights the traits and tragedies that lead to fanaticism."
— Christian Science Monitor
"[Mina] writes about the political and religious conflicts of the day with well-informed precision, but she does so with a cheekily contemporary flair."
"This fast and compelling read is a good historical thriller for readers of history and fiction." — Library Journal
"This short, vibrant novella from acclaimed Scottish author Denise Mina immerses the reader in the life of Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican priest. There is no mincing of words here. Mina sees clear parallels between yesterday’s horrors and today’s challenges. Nor does she find comfort in Savonarola’s execution. He was a man who wrote extensively—he is often credited as a source of inspiration to Martin Luther, for example—and for good and for bad, Savonarola’s influence is with us now. Powerful stuff." — Historical Novel Society
''Intensely dramatic like a Shakespearean tragedy. A remarkable, moving and thought-provoking book. Beautifully done." — The Scotsman
“Mina fictionalizes the life of Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), who was executed for heresy, in this vivid historical thriller. Even readers who know what comes next—namely, the 1497 Bonfire of the Vanities—will be captivated by Mina’s lyricism. This is a triumph."
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
Praise for Denise Mina’s Rizzio:
"Ms. Mina, in her most recent books, has stretched her talent and pushed the genre envelope in stimulating ways. In Rizzio she has created a plus-sized novella with the passion of an opera, a tour de force of imaginative reconstruction.” — Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal
"Bestseller Mina vividly recreates a gruesome episode from the Tudor era in this searing novella set mostly over the course of a single day, March 9th, 1566. Mina interjects well-wrought characterizations; this superior historical thriller reads like a real-life episode of Game of Thrones." — Publishers Weekly (starred)