Rizzio by Denise Mina – Book review

I do enjoy a bit of historical fiction, especially stories that focus on and around the Tudor era (1485 – 1603) and Rizzio is exactly that. It’s a retelling by crime and thriller author, Denise Mina of a dramatic event in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587).

Opening sentence: Lord Ruthven wanted him killed during this tennis match but Darnley said no.

The murder of David Rizzio

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that – it’s literally what the whole book is about and really did happen. Mary’s advisor, David Rizzio was brutally murdered in front of her, while she was pregnant, and Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, had a part to play in it…

Lord Darnley and David Rizzio don’t like each other but only one of them can afford to show it.

This tale of political coup takes place over one night, touches on the Calvinists vs Catholics and even sets the scene for another key person in Mary’s life, Lord Bothwell.

There is so much deception, deceit and wickedness packed into these pages, it’s such a juicy, exciting read. It also features one of the most violent and graphic death scenes I’ve read in quite some time.

It’s actually shocking (and depressing) how relevant the actions of power-hungry, privileged men in the 16th century resonate with what’s going on today in the political climate now – the daggers are just little more metaphorical these days and the victim… very much the general public.

If anyone were punished for the deed the entire class would fall.

Every character springs from the page, with exceptional descriptions like this:

Yair was always a killing spree looking for an excuse.

The Darkland Tales

Rizzio was written as part of the Darkland Tales, a series that sees brilliant Scottish authors tell stories about moments and myths from history. Two more books are coming from Jenni Fagan and Alan Warner in 2022 and they’re firmly on my TBR.

This was excellent, a hugely enjoyable slice of a particularly gory moment in history and a great introduction for me to author Denise Mina. I haven’t read any of her books before but love her tone here, so will be checking out her back-catalogue.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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