Bestselling author Benjamin Black turns his eye to sixteenth century Prague and a story of murder, magic and the dark art of wielding extraordinary power
Christian Stern, an ambitious young scholar and alchemist, arrives in Prague in the bitter winter of 1599, intent on making his fortune at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, the eccentric Rudolf II. The night of his arrival, drunk and lost, Christian stumbles upon the body of a young woman in Golden Lane, an alley hard by Rudolf’s great castle. Dressed in a velvet gown, wearing a large gold medallion around her neck, the woman is clearly well-born—or was, for her throat has been slashed.
A lesser man would smell danger, but Christian is determined to follow his fortunes wherever they may lead. He quickly finds himself entangled in the machinations of several ruthless courtiers, and before long he comes to the attention of the Emperor himself. Rudolf, deciding that Christian is that rare thing—a person he can trust—sets him the task of solving the mystery of the woman’s murder. But Christian soon realizes that he has blundered into the midst of a power struggle that threatens to subvert the throne itself. And as he gets ever nearer to the truth of what happened that night in Golden Lane, he finally sees that his own life is in grave danger.
From the spectacularly inventive Benjamin Black, Wolf on a String is a historical crime novel that delivers both a mesmerizing portrait of a lost world and a riveting tale of intrigue and suspense.
Black (The Black-Eyed Blonde) displays his mastery of yet another mystery subgenre in this brooding, atmospheric whodunit set in 16th-century Prague. Christian Stern, the bastard son of the Prince-Bishop of Regensburg, has arrived in that city in the hopes of winning the favor of Rudolf II, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and obtaining a place among the court's learned men, such as Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. The first night he spends in Prague, Stern finds Magdalena Kroll the teenage daughter of Dr. Ulrich Kroll, Rudolf's physician and "one of his chief wizards" lying in a snowy street with her throat slit. Initially a suspect, Stern soon becomes the emperor's designated investigator. In order to discover the truth behind the murder, he must navigate a realm in which no one can be fully trusted. Superior prose (Magdalena's head rests in a pool of blood, a "black round in which the faint radiance of the heavens faintly glinted") complements the intricate plot. Black is the pen name of Man Booker Prize winner John Banville.
Very uneven, and drags a lot in the first two-thirds.You can't try to trade on the atmosphere Prague and get the geography wrong. He doesn't seem to know where the Powder Tower is located most of the time.