"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.
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.