Books Reviewed by CKT

Caravaggio Signed in Blood by Mark David Smith

Published by Tradewind Books

Caravaggio Signed in Blood cleverly draws you into the world of Renaissance Italy and Malta with an adventure, murder mystery and love story all rolled into one.

Beppo is a 15 year old servant, falsely accused of murder, which sets him on the run through the back streets of Rome, where he becomes involved in a brawl where Caravaggio, a famous artist, is defending himself with a sword, but ends up killing his opponent. Beppo helps Caravaggio escape, both ending up on the run from authorities. With the assistance of The Cardinal, Caravaggio’s patron, they flee to Naples. Caravaggio is given the death penalty in absentia and is pursued by determined bounty hunters, causing them to escape to Malta together, where they forge an unlikely friendship.

Along the way, Beppo falls in love with Dolcetta, the daughter of one of Caravaggio’s clients. Despite Beppo being a lowly servant and she a higher class citizen, they manage to continue their romance illicitly.

Beppo becomes Caravaggio’s assistant and learns the craft of the artist, from procuring paints, stretching canvases and adroitly negotiating commissions. Caravaggio also teaches him to wield a sword, which is a useful skill to have when you are seeking to become a squire as Beppo was or are attacked by pirates.

This story is a fast moving rollicking adventure that moves from bandits to prison escapes and pirate attacks. It draws you into the story quickly – a page turner from beginning to end!

I’m a huge fan of medieval Italy and Caravaggio and was impressed with the authenticity of the 17th century setting, historical and artistic knowledge that was part of every chapter. Small touches, like italicised comments of Beppo’s innermost thoughts, occasional use of Italian words and page numbers with calligraphy flourish – all places you right amongst the action.

Beppo’s journey from servant to hero, whilst finding true love along the way, is endearing and the insights into Caravaggio’s artistic world are intriguing. I also appreciated the inclusion of historical notes about Caravaggio. Author, Mark David Smith, has written a melodramatic, medieval setting novel that is certain to appeal to teenage readers.

Reviewed by Leonie Cheetham
CKT Book Reviewer

Author: Mark David Smith
Illustrator: Stephane Jorisch
Title: Caravaggio Signed in Blood
Publisher: Tradewind Books
ISBN: 9781896580050
Published: February 2015
Age: 11+


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