On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before. A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens--and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.
Rizzio, a brief novel of historical treachery by the adventurous Scottish author Denise Mina, is set mostly in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Palace in early 1566 ... Given its basis in recorded fact, the plot of Rizzio is denied many of the opportunities for suspense afforded to stories made from whole cloth. (Who lives? Who dies? Who escapes?) But Ms. Mina creates other types of suspense: Who will be the next coup participant, for instance, to find out that he’s not in charge of the deeds he’s signed on to commit? ... In Rizzio, [Mina] has created a plus-sized novella with the passion of an opera, a tour de force of imaginative reconstruction.
What really causes the story to leap from the page in three dimensions, though, is Mina's pin-sharp grasp of human psychology ... As told by Mina, [Rizzio] an electric and utterly absorbing battle of wills. Is it the truth'? Of course, we can never know. It certainly feels like it.
The story of Mary, Queen of Scots, so often characterised as a romance, was notably violent and grim. Visitors to Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh who would like to sense the brutal reality should pay attention to a very small room off the royal bedchamber – it was here, on 9 March 1566, that David Rizzio, Mary’s private secretary and favourite, was murdered ... Denise Mina’s Rizzio dramatises the murder and its aftermath: the queen a prisoner, her life threatened. Mina makes no attempt at recreating the language of the Scottish court, opting instead for hard-boiled sentences, stabby and pithy ... Mina is good at the institutionalised and individual misogyny of the period, subtly connecting it to those issues in our own time ... Mary was a powerful woman whose gender made her vulnerable both physically and in terms of her hold on that power. Although Mina touches on this idea throughout, it feels at times as though this short novel is a step towards a longer work, one in which the predicament and point of view of the queen are explored in much greater depth. Perhaps she will write that book one day. Rizzio, meanwhile, is an intriguing sketch in blood.