what is he doing *now*?
Dorothy Dunnett is one of the best known and best loved authors of historical novels. She is best known for two series, the Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolo.
The Lymond Chronicles tell the story of a Scottish nobleman, Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scholar and mercenary of the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. Lymond is witty, skilled, and utterly maddening. He is content to be misunderstood, and as he refuses to explain himself, usually is. Dunnett does not give us an omniscient narrator: we see what happens, and we hear what is said, but we have no more insight into Lymond's thought processes than the other characters do.
Lymond, his family, and his close friends (and enemies) are fictional, but the world in which he lives and moves is not, and Dunnett brings it richly to life.
The Lymond books are currently in print in the United States in trade paperback; get them while they are available.
The House of Niccolo concerns a Flemish dyeshop apprentice, Nicholas van der Poele, with a head for numbers, a devious mind, and a taste for extremely subtle and thorough revenge. I've not yet finished the series, but it's better than the Lymond Chronicles, if that's possible.
All of the House of Niccolo books are currently in print here in the U.S., including the final one, Gemini, which is currently available in hardback. I'm waiting for the softcover, but I'm told that in addition to wrapping up the series it also provides a link between the Niccolo books and the historically later Lymond books. I don't know what the link is (and please don't tell me, if you know), but I'm been wondering for some time if that awful old man in Paris at the end of the Lymond chronicles is actually a St. Pol.
The Lymond Chronicles
The House of Niccolo