Friday, October 4, 2013

"The Serpent and the Pearl"

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she first got hooked on ancient Rome while watching I, Claudius at the age of seven. She wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome, and it was later published as Mistress of Rome. A prequel followed, titled Daughters of Rome, and then a sequel, Empress of the Seven Hills--written while her husband was deployed to the Middle East.

Quinn made the jump from ancient Rome to Renaissance Italy for her fourth and fifth novels, The Serpent and the Pearl and The Lion and the Rose, detailing the early years of the Borgia clan. She also has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Quinn applied the Page 69 Test to The Serpent and the Pearl and reported the following:
My page 69 would be a bafflement if you started there, but on the other hand, you might keep reading out of sheer fascination. You see, the heroine is talking to a shriveled-up severed hand.

No, The Serpent and the Pearl is not a murder mystery about a serial killer who takes grisly mementos of his victims. Actually, there is a serial killer, and there is a murder mystery, but the hand has nothing to do with him. The Serpent and the Pearl takes place in the Italian Renaissance, and Catholics of the day were very big on holy relics - little bits of dead saint, much of the time. The heroine, who is a cook, just happens to have in her possession the sacred hand of Santa Marta, patron saint of cooks - and she didn't exactly come by it honestly! So she tells her good luck charm:
"My hands and all their works, from this day, if you will forgive me my sins against you."

I looked down at my own hands. Scarred with old knife nicks, the faded burn on my wrist where a too-hot sauce had once splashed, the calluses from wrestling with spits and jerking feathers from dead pheasants. What saint beside the patron saint of cooks would want hands like that?
So if you opened The Serpent and the Pearl and started at page 69? You'd know that the heroine is a working woman with an unorthodox past and an Addams-Family sidekick. Hopefully you'd keep reading!
Learn more about the book and author at Kate Quinn's website and blog.

Writers Read: Kate Quinn (April 2012).

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kate Quinn and Caesar.

My Book, The Movie: Empress of the Seven Hills.

Writers Read: Kate Quinn.

--Marshal Zeringue