Vitellio Scarpia is a flawed protagonist, a hotheaded Sicilian adventurer “possessed by the spirit of vendetta.” Following some youthful recklessness, he loses his fortune but later ascends to become a loyal, trusted officer in the pontifical army. Scarpia’s background is richly imagined, and Floria Tosca, a young woman with a glorious singing voice, is mostly a minor character whose story interweaves with his. There are numerous nonfiction digressions from Scarpia’s story, some of which are fairly dry, but they illuminate the context of his turbulent times.
Scarpia was published this month by Bloomsbury USA ($27, hb, 384pp). This review first appeared in Booklist's November 15th issue; I actually read it last September. I'm a reader who wasn't already familiar with Tosca, but I read over a synopsis after finishing this book (not beforehand, as I wanted to avoid spoilers!).