"Three Fires" by Denise Mina is a fascinating book that works beautifully at several different levels. Superficially, it's a historical novella about a Dominican friar living in Florence at the end of the fifteenth century, the historical figure Girolamo Savonarola. If you wished, you could simply read it as that. But you don't have to look hard to realise that Denise Mina's story is much more too. The most obvious clue is in the language in which the book is written, which is thoroughly modern in its style and approach. The result feels a little like a stage adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" in a modern setting, though without the modern dress.
The modern language serves to highlight what I strongly suspect the author intends as the central focus of her book, the parallels between the atmosphere of medieval Florence and the culture wars of the present day. As the publishers say: "In dramatising the life and last days of Savonarola she explores the downfall of the original architect of cancel culture and in the process explores the neverending tensions between wealth, inequality, and freedom of speech that so dominate our modern world."
This interplay between the author's representation of fifteenth century Florence and the readers' understanding of the modern word shifts "Three Fires" from straight historical fiction to an analysis of a range of important contemporary issues: it is a book we'd recommend to a wide audience.
You get a good sense of the story the author tells from the rest of the publisher's blurb: "Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar living in Florence at the tail end of the fifteenth century. An anti-corruption campaigner his hellfire preaching increasingly spilled over into tirades against all luxuries that tempted people towards sin. These sermons led to the infamous ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ - a series of fires lit throughout Florence for the incineration of everything from books, extravagant clothing, playing cards, musical instruments, make-up and mirrors, to paintings, tapestries and sculptures. Railing against the vice and avarice of the ruling Medici family, he was instrumental in their removal from power, and for a time became the puritanical leader of the city. After turning his attention to corruption in the entire Catholic Church, he was first excommunicated and then executed by a combination of hanging and being burnt at the stake."