The book is set in Emilia Romagna, in Italy, and as the novel opens, seventeen-year-old seamstress Sofia Genotti is on the run, falsely accused of theft. Penniless and desperate to avoid the perils of whoredom, she is introduced to a troupe of actors, who ask her to join them as costume mistress. Within weeks, though, she is asked if she would care to learn how to act. She is delighted with this idea, as acting will surely bring her closer to Beppe Bianchi, the young man who plays the anarchic character, Arlecchino (Harlequin), for the troupe. And, as the two become steadily closer, Sofia is sure that she has never been happier.
But her happiness does not last long – after a fêted performance at an aristocrat’s castle, she is accosted by the owner … and the following morning the man is found dead. Sofia finds herself faced with another accusation – this time, one of murder.
Who was the dead nobleman, and how did his secret past lead to his death? A tale of blackmail, violence and sexual jealousies will reveal the true killer and the redemptive power of theatre will triumph.
Soon after Waterstones had reopened its doors (an hour after its official closing time), the upper floor was packed with Gaby's friends and fans (including at least one other person I recognised from the workshop at Havant Lit Fest).
There were many copies of the new books to be signed and bought, as well as opportunities to buy other books (I managed to buy just two Shire books). There was wine and fruit juice and a variety of nibbles. There were children in Fancy Dress for Children in Need, who ended up selling raffle tickets for the same cause. And then we had readings from the book. Three short teasers which gave a perfect impression of what the book might be about and kept the audience's attention throughout.
Gaby (and everyone else I spoke to -- I was one of the only ones that went on my own) was wonderfully welcoming, and she seemed to have time for all the guests.
A great evening out and an excellent example of how to promote a new book in person.