Rizzio by Denise Mina #DarklandTales #bookreview @polygonbooks

I’m kicking off 2022 with a review of a short book I got for Christmas, Rizzio by Denise Mina. This is a good beginning to me keeping up with one of my 2022 reading resolutions – to read more from my personal tbr pile. If you missed my post about that, you can read it here: Reading Resolutions 2022

About the Book

This breathtakingly tense work is a tale of sex, seduction, secrets and lies, one that looks at history through a modern lens and explores the lengths that men – and women – will go to in the search for love and power.

It’s Saturday evening, 9 March 1566, and Mary, Queen of Scots, is six months pregnant. She’s hosting a supper party. Outside, Edinburgh is bustling. It’s full of the Great and the Good and the Idiot Sons of the Rich, here for a Parliament that will take Scotland by the shoulders and turn it from England to face Europe.

Mary doesn’t know that her Palace is surrounded – that, right now, an army of men is creeping upstairs to her chamber. They’re coming to murder David Rizzio, her friend and secretary, the handsome Italian man who is smiling across the table at her. Mary’s husband wants it done in front of her and he wants her to watch it done …

My thoughts

This is a sharply focussed retelling of the events on the evening that David Rizzio, secretary and friend to Mary Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. It’s the first in a series of books called Darkland Tales, in which modern Scottish authors will give their take on dramatic events from Scotland’s history.

Denise Mina’s taut and tense prose brings this historical event vividly to life. The viewpoint shifts rapidly in short chapters from character to character and makes the events of the evening seem very immediate and frantic. With the book set mostly over the course of one day, it was a really fast paced read. I personally found it a bit gory at times as the violence is depicted quite graphically.

I think I would have preferred a longer version of story as it was so well written but I appreciate that the point of the Darkland Tales is to create short retellings. I’ll be interested to see what events are covered by subsequent books. The next in the series is called Hex by Jenni Fagan and is due for publication in March. It’s about the North Berwick witch trials and sounds fascinating.

The events of the evening of 9th March 1566 may be quite well known but through this gripping short read, Denise Mina gives a new and absorbing perspective on the murder of Rizzio and its ramifications for Scotland and her Queen.

About the author

Denise Mina was born in East Kilbride in 1966. Her first book, Garnethill, won the CWA Dagger for Best First Crime Novel. She has won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year twice, and the MacIlvanney Prize twice. She is a presenter of TV and radio programmes, and appears regularly in the media. 


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