Books: Add Poison, to Taste

THE BORGIA TESTAMENT (312 pp.)—Nigel Balchin—Houghton Mifflin ($3).

Few men ever equaled Cesare Borgia's record for quick promotion. Cesare was the bastard son of Vatican Vice-Chancellor Rodrigo Borgia and his mistress Vanozza de Catanei. When he was only six, he was made Canon of Valencia. At 15, he became Bishop of Pamplona; at 16, archbishop of Valencia; at 17, a cardinal. Only the papal throne itself stood ahead of young Cardinal Borgia, but since that was now occupied by his crafty father (who had become Pope Alexander VI), the frustrated youngster started looking around...

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