My rating: 4 of 5 ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The Secret Supper is a mystery that involves my favorite topics, Renaissance art, Italy, religious history, symbols, codes, and conspiracy theories. It’s fashionable to bad-mouth The Da Vinci Code on literary and religious grounds, but I enjoyed both book and movie, and I don’t rely upon novels to formulate my religious beliefs. The plot of the Secret Supper is in the same genre, focusing on DaVinci’s other masterpiece, the Last Supper. Although much of the outstanding art of the Renaissance was commissioned by the church to illustrate its orthodox teachings, many painters used artistic license to express ideas of their own. The Last Supper was highly controversial during its own creation, and The Secret Supper suggests what some of those less mainstream ideas might be.
Chief inquisitor Agostino Leyre is dispatched to Milan to discover whether persistent allegations of heresy concerning Leonardo’s work are true. Father Agostino takes up lodging at the very monastery where The Last Supper is being created, but before he can launch a proper investigation, he must first solve a cryptic riddle that was provided by the accuser, the mysterious Soothsayer. Large segments of the story therefore involve learning about signs, symbols, codes, and numerology, during which the narration devolves into tutorials about hidden secrets and meanings. The slower chapters are relieved by action sequences involving street scenes and nefarious murders. It came as a surprise when the history of the maligned Cathor religious movement became central to the plot, in quite a credible way. Less successful were the portrayals of Leonardo as having purely mystical intentions, and of a young Sforza countess as a direct descendent of Mary Magdalen.
Recommended for readers who enjoy complex mysteries and intellectual puzzles, but not those who are super sensitive about religious dogma.