Friday, March 2, 2018

Book Review: 'The Medici Letters' by Taylor Buck

Los Angeles graphic designer/author Taylor Buck grew up in Oregon where his artistic beginnings were in music - both as performer and as a studio engineer. He attended Oregon State University and Southern Oregon University earning a BA in graphic design and he has used that training in design in the music industry for over seven years and led creative direction for the largest music instrument retailers and eCommerce sites respectively--Musician's Friend and Guitar Center. He has also worked with agencies on a number of marketing initiatives for vendors that include Mitsubishi, Nike, Motorcycle Superstore, Fender, Human Bean, Asante and others. He currently holds a position as creative director for a major Internet retailer. But he has also tapped into the creation of books - as the author of THE ISLAND PROJECT, a hi-tech thriller set on Big Island of Hawaii and now THE MEDICI LETTERS, which demonstrates his penchant for incorporating all the arts that characterized the Renaissance into a contemporary international mystery thriller.

Taylor very wisely opens his book with a detailed description of the Renaissance and its position in the history of civilization. He takes us to the brink of the 14th century and the rebirth of the thirst for knowledge lost in the Dark Ages. And he turns his focus on not only the great artists of that time, but more pointedly on the Medici family: `Throughout the Renaissance, the patronage of this infamous family seemed to be the guiding hand in commissioning masterpieces from the greatest minds in Florence. They used their wealth to employ inventors, sculptors, painters, architects, poets and philosophers. Over time, the Medici positioned Florence into such a social and political powerhouse that their name alone became an esteemed marquee of dominance throughout Europe. However, this sudden rise to fame did not transpire without drawing a reasonable sum of curiosity. After all, where did this power originate? The mystery surrounding the Medici has been a point of intrigue and controversy among historians, curators, art buffs and professors over the past 500 years. Some recognize them as tyrants, some as manufacturers of modern civilization... others as gatekeepers wielding a key to the past. Whatever the perception, the Medici were admiringly loved by the masses, yet also deeply loathed by their enemies. Loved or hated, one fact is irrefutable--their mark on history is ubiquitous. Even today, their legacy survives. It is seen throughout streets and museums all over Europe. The Medici family crest adorns walls, street corners, paintings and monuments--a lasting reminder of their influence in history but more importantly, a clue to a secret they kept hidden for hundreds of
years. A secret that has only recently been discovered. In September of 2013, an underground vault of correspondence letters belonging to various members of the Medici family was discovered in Florence, Italy. Using modern subsurface analysis techniques called Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), hundreds of letters were located, recovered and restored. The letters were thoroughly examined; however, the contents were never made known to the public. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) immediately took ownership of the documents and filed them away before the information was revealed. The following events are based on those findings.'

And so Taylor creates his novel: `A shocking ancient secret. The origins of western civilization discovered, built upon a secret passed down to a banking family in Florence--the Medici. Florence, Italy, present day. A trove of letters belonging to the Medici family is discovered underground. Archaeologist Kat Cullen comes across a map that leads her to the Swiss Alps where she is later found unconscious and her partner murdered. Kat's husband, professor and classicist--Jack Cullen, rushes to investigate. He joins with Chester Allen, a brilliant scientist from surveillance enterprise TerraTEK Industries, and together they begin to unravel the mystery of the Medici letters in hopes of determining what happened in the Alps. As they dig deeper, Jack stumbles across a secret--the infamous Medici treasure is real. However, word gets out and Jack soon realizes he's not the only one interested in finding it...a deadly and elusive assassin attempts to seize control, throwing Jack into a series of harrowing escapades--riding horseback through the streets of Siena, discovering clues inside ancient cathedrals, deciphering 500 year-old cryptosystems and navigating an underground labyrinth in order to solve a secret so powerful it could change the world forever.'

With Taylor's deft pen he scribes a blend of history, intrigue, with close enough traces of reality that make this a monumental tome. Truth stranger than fiction - and told with a propulsive force that more that lightens the questions of the mysteries that continue to surround the Medicis. Excellent reading, Grady Harp, June 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.