Gabriella Mondini, a woman who practices medicine in 16th century Venice, was taught, encouraged, and mentored by her father. A renowned physician, he left Venice 10 years prior on a journey to research for his Book of Diseases. Now, gone for a decade, Gabriella has lost her privileges to practice medicine and treat patients. Upset at this and worried about her father, Gabriella and two servants set out on a trek across Europe to try to find him. Their trek is long, arduous, and crosses many borders. They have only her father's letters, which became fewer, shorter, and less coherent as his absence grew longer, to guide their way.
The auther, Regina O'Melveny, has a deft way with words and The Book of Madness and Cures is written prettily. Prior to this novel, O'Melveny has published poetry and that lends itself well to the descriptions of the Renaissance time period.
The Book of Madness and Cures is a good story of a daughter's search for her father, but I felt that overall it fell flat. The "mystery" aspect of the story wasn't really mysterious at all (though her sudden 'activities' with Hamish in the library were - I mean, this is the late 1500's!). I guess I was expecting something more sinister in regards to the story overall - especially after what befell Wilhelm (and even now I wonder at his demise and the actual necessity of it in regards to the plot). It seemed cobbled together. I mean, the whole idea of the study of madness and the interesting little snippets from Gabriella and her father's writing and notes was promising; it just wasn't as interesting as it could have been.
If you are looking for something easy and "chick-lit-y", this is the book for you.
If you want a book that's historical fiction with a woman protagonist who's also outwitting the men that is more of a mystery/thriller, then you should check out Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series.