Man is a delicate mechanism. he can easily be set off course.
It is the late 18th century and nobleman Vitellio Scarpia finds himself, penniless and in disgrace, on the streets of Rome. After leaving his home, on a quest for a successful military career, his fiery passion has seen him expelled from the Spanish royal guard and left to seek his fortune in Italy; a fortune inseparably bound to the Pope, whose regency has been in question since the French Revolution.
Intent on furthering his position in Rome, Scarpia supplements his income as a guard by accompanying a seductive countess, delighted at the prospect of having an ex-soldier on her arm. With her as his guide, Scarpia is able to attend the many decadent parties and festivals open to the upper echelons of the city. That is, provided he does his duty.
But, traversing a society swirling with questions of political and sexual morality, the provincial soldier feels himself harden. And, as his own path converges with that of the gifted, beautiful Floria Tosca, he discovers that the fate that led him to power will be the same one that tears him from it.
Steeped in factual detail and exploring the fictional figure whose actions define Puccini's famous opera, Tosca, novelist Piers Paul Read here tells the powerful tale of Vitellio Scarpia, a story that shines a light into the dusty corridors of history and the dark corners of the human soul.
Based on one of the central figures from Tosca, Puccini's classic opera, Scarpia is a powerful story of love, lust and political intrigue set in Rome after the French Revolution
Piers Paul Read is one of Britain's most intelligent and disturbing writers New York Times Book Review Undoubtedly one of the most talented novelists of his generation Sunday Telegraph Inventive and rooted in sound historical research Mail on Sunday Marvellously comic, superbly inventive ... One of the most arresting British novelists The Times Brilliant ... perfect for nights in Stylist You don't need to know the opera Tosca to understand and enjoy this book about Puccini's most notorious villain ... [it] left me shocked and befuddled Spectator [An] intriguing combination of religiosity and evil Tablet The whole book is a vivid Ground Tour -- Simon Rees Literary Review What a pleasure it is to read a novel by a writer who knows precisely what he is doing and how to bring it off ... Piers Paul Read is a very good novelist indeed, one who sets himself different challenges with every book ... This is a wonderfully rich book, its picture of late-18th-century Rome, Naples, Calabria and Sicily absorbing, delightful, at times horrible, completely credible. Read has not only thoroughly mastered his research; he has done what the novel can do better than any history: he has illuminated it by his creative imagination ... Scarpia is an outstanding historical novel (which means it is simply an outstanding novel), up there, in this new golden age of historical fiction, with Hilary Mantel's Cromwell books and Robert Harris's Cicero trilogy -- Allan Massie Oldie
Piers Paul Read is best known for his book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, which documented the story of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 and was adapted into a film in 1993. He has won a number of prizes for his fiction, including the Hawthornden Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.