Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Episode 1

Book at Bedtime, Secrecy Episode 1 of 10

"Some see you as a master craftsman. Others say you're a sorcerer. You're mysterious, obsessive. Controversial."

Zummo - a 17th-century sculptor - makes things out of wax, figures so lifelike they look as if they might move and breathe. He has journeyed throughout Italy over the years in an attempt to flee his past. Now, in 1691, he has been summoned to the Medici court by the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He arrives in Florence, a city in which "everything was forbidden [and] anything was possible." But what does the Grand Duke have in mind for him?

Ten years later, Zummo visits a convent in France and tells the whole story to Marguerite-Louise of Orléans, long-estranged wife of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Secrecy is a tale of love, art, murder and concealment, enacted within a beautifully-realised 17th century Florentine and Tuscan setting.

Some of the 'plague pieces' by Gaetano Zummo (1656-1701) can be found in La Specola, Florence.

Rupert Thomson is the author of eight highly-acclaimed novels including Death of a Murderer, which was shortlisted for the 2008 Costa Novel Award. His memoir This Party's Got to Stop won the Writer's Guild Non-Fiction Award.

Episode One
In 1701, a frail, dying Zummo arrives at a French convent. He has a story to tell. His audience? Marguerite-Louise of Orléans, former wife of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Readers: Greta Scacchi and Owen Teale
Abridger: Jeremy Osborne

Producer: Rosalynd Ward
A Sweet Talk Production for BBC Radio 4.

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Mon 26 Aug 2013 22:45

More episodes


You are at the first episode

See all episodes from Book at Bedtime


Role Contributor
ReaderGreta Scacchi
ReaderOwen Teale
ProducerRosalynd Ward
AbridgerJeremy Osborne
AuthorRupert Thomson

4 Stories

4 Stories

Download these highlights and all our programmes via the iPlayer Radio app.

Sign up for the BBC Books Newsletter


A weekly roundup of readings, author interviews and special picks from the BBC archives

More from Books at the BBC

Books at BBC logo

Author interviews, readings, documentaries and highlights from the BBC's books content

Sample our books and authors Clip Collection

Clips of Books Content

Interviews, previews and reviews