Race of Scorpions
The Third Book of The House of Niccolo
By Dorothy Dunnett
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375704796, 560pp.)
Publication Date: March 30, 1999
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With the bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail she brought to her acclaimed Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett presents The House of Niccolò series. The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges, the good-natured dyer's apprentice who schemes and swashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.
In 1462, Nicholas is a wealthy 21-year-old. His beloved wife has died. His stepchildren have locked him out of the family business. He and his private army are the target of multiple conspiracies. And both contenders for the throne of Cyprus, the brilliant Queen Carlotta and her charismatic, sexually ambivalent brother James, are demanding his support. Walking a tightrope of intrigue, Dunnett's hero juggles adversaries and allies, from the delectable courtesan Primaflora to the Mameluke commander Tzani-Bey al Ablak, a man of undiluted evil. Masterfully paced, alive with sensual delights, Race of Scorpions confirms Dorothy Dunnett as the grande dame of the genre.
Dorothy Dunnett was born in 1923 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Her time at Gillespie's High School for Girls overlapped with that of the novelist Muriel Spark. From 1940-1955, she worked for the Civil Service as a press officer. In 1946, she married Alastair Dunnett, later editor of The Scotsman.
Dunnett started writing in the late 1950s. Her first novel, The Game of Kings, was published in the United States in 1961, and in the United Kingdom the year after. She published 22 books in total, including the six-part Lymond Chronicles and the eight-part Niccolo Series, and co-authored another volume with her husband. Also an accomplished professional portrait painter, Dunnett exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy on many occasions and had portraits commissioned by a number of prominent public figures in Scotland.
She also led a busy life in public service, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland, a Trustee of the Scottish National War Memorial, and Director of the Edinburgh Book Festival. She served on numerous cultural committees, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1992 she was awarded the Office of the British Empire for services to literature. She died on November 9, 2001, at the age of 78.
"Dunnett's exhaustively researched 15th-century characters and settings prove excitingly real. . . .Fabulous fare for all lovers of historical intrigue." --Kirkus Reviews
"Barbed with wit, elegant and sensuous . . . . The book yields many of the delights we've come to expect from Dunnett." --The Washington Post Book World
"The finest living writer of historical fiction"--The Washington Post Book World