Crystal King continues her journey through food history with The Chef’s Secret. In her previous book, Feast of Sorrow, she took us back to ancient Rome to explore food at the height of its decadence. In this novel, we visit Renaissance Rome in a story inspired by L’Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, a chef who served multiple popes.
Giovanni has served as his uncle’s apprentice at the Vatican kitchens since he was a teenager; he loves the man as a father. But as The Chef’s Secret opens, Bartolomeo has succumbed to pneumonia and old age. As Giovanni struggles with his grief and changes in his station, an old friend brings him the keys to Bartolomeo’s strong boxes with instructions to burn everything in them. Bartolomeo had been planning on destroying them before he got ill, but didn’t get a chance. Giovanni, as every good nephew and apprentice does, immediately starts to read the letters and coded journals inside.
In the strongbox documents, Giovanni discovers his uncle’s secret life, secrets that completely undo his understanding of his parentage and his putative uncle. Those secrets lead Giovanni on a wild ride through Rome, Venice, and fifty-odd years of Papal history. This book doesn’t linger on food the way that Feast of Sorrow did, unfortunately, but it does offer plenty of vendettas, scheming, code-breaking, and romance to make up for it.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss and NetGalley. It will be released 12 February 2019.