If your knowledge of the Medici family begins and ends with their patronage of Renaissance artists, sharp-penned writer Tim Parks has some revelations to share. True, the Medicis used the wealth they amassed from their bank to turn Florence, Italy, into the Mecca of fifteenth-century culture. Yet, the Medici clan also perfected the arts of vanquishing foes and allying with the rich and powerful to gain a stranglehold on political power - all in bold-faced defiance of Catholic Church doctrine. The Vatican held that paying or collecting so much as a penny of interest was a mortal sin. Parks? book shows you what the Medici made of that, and his arch, witty style is a joy to read. Perhaps the only caution is that this history is more a study of the spiritual and social history of Florence than a guide to the Medicis? business successes and failures.