The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

The Book of Unholy Mischief

In 1498 Venice, Luciano is caught stealing a pomegranate in the market by the doge’s chef.  Chef Ferrero brings the homeless boy to the kitchen to begin life as his apprentice.  Luciano is provided with room and board in return for emptying and refilling the cistern and running the prepared food from the kitchen to the maids.  He may be promoted to vegetable cook by working hard and listening to Chef Ferrero.

Living on the streets, he had only his friend Marco to advise him.  Chef Ferrero becomes Luciano’s new teacher.  The loyalty Luciano feels towards them sometimes conflict with each other. 

All over Venice conversations are taking place about the New World and about a mysterious book.  The doge believes it will contain a cure his syphilis.  Luciano believes it holds the key to a love potion and will make Francesca fall in love with him.  Marco wants the book to get the reward and live as a rich man.  When Luciano and Marco begin to suspect Chef Ferrero knows the book’s location they are at odds on what actions to take next.

Elle Newmark first self-published the novel under the title of Bones of the Dead after her agent stopped submitting it.  Spurred on by a low sales rank on Amazon and Carrie Bradshaw’s book release party on an episode of Sex and the City, Newmark held a virtual book launch party.  Newmark intended to create a sales spike.  She got more than that -  a day before the virtual book launch she had offers from multiple agents to represent her.  Within a few weeks she had an auction for the book and had a two book deal with Simon and Schuster. 

Retitled The Book of Unholy Mischief it’s been released in multiple languages.  Newmark is hard at work on her next novel.  The Book of Unholy Mischief is ultimately about a boy becoming a man by making some hard decisions and recognizing those crossroads.  Naturally, the setting invites all sorts of descriptions about wonderful meals and food preparation.  At times I had to stop reading in order to have an unsatisfying snack to quell my hunger pangs.  Newmark’s novel tells Luciano’s story with a sweet, wistful tone I haven’t found in a book for a long time.

Elle Newmark’s web site has a book discussion guide and some terrific blog posts.  She may even be available via conference call to attend your book club discussion.  You can find it at


  1. This sounds interesting! Thanks for the review – I am off to the library – nothing like spending time in a cold library on a hot day! I just reserved Wally Lamb’s new book.
    .-= Biz´s last blog ..Breakfast Pizza! =-.

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