The synopsis for Rupert Thomson’s Secrecy piqued my interest, but the execution did not work for me. The novel centers on Gaetano Zummo. Zummo is a wax sculptor who has just accepted the patronage of the Grand Duke of Florence at the end of the seventeenth century. All he wants is to pursue his work making memento mori dioramas (the best way I can describe it) at the beginning of the novel. Almost immediately, he falls in love with an apothecary who turns out to have an explosive secret. His involvement with the apothecary and his patronage inspire a virulent hatred by a vindictive priest.
I finished Secrecy because I enjoyed reading about Florence in the 1690s. The setting was amazing. Unfortunately, every character except Zummo is sketchy and one-dimensional. Stufa, Zummo’s nemesis for most of the book, is a stock villain and the little bit of backstory did nothing to explain the lengths he went to to destroy Zummo’s happiness. The ending was also deeply unsatisfying.