Whoever saves a single life saves
the entire world ....
In 1592, as the Catholic Church and the Protestants battle for control of the soul of Europe, Prague is a relatively safe harbor in the religious storm. Ruled by Emperor Rudolph II, the city is a refuge to Jews who live within the gated walls of its ghetto. But their lives are jeopardized when a young Christian girl is found with her throat slashed in a Jewish shop on the eve of Passover. Charged with blood libel, the shopkeeper and his family are arrested. All that stands in the way of a rabid Christian mob is a clever Talmudic scholar, newly arrived from Poland, named Benyamin Ben-Akiva. Pleading the shopkeeper's innocence to the city's sheriff, Benyamin is given three days to bring the true killer to justice.
But the search will not be easy. Hampered by rabbinic law, and with no allies or connections, Benyamin has only his wits, knowledge, and faith to guide him on his quest--a trail that weaves from the city's teeming streets to the quiet of a shul, from the forbidden back rooms of a ghetto brothel to the emperor's lavish palace. The Talmud says many things in life depend on mazl, luck. Fortunately, Benyamin is blessed, for an unlikely group of heroes will risk their own lives to help him discover the truth: Anya, a Christian butcher's daughter; the renowned reformist rabbi Judah Loew; a wise herbal healer known as Kassandra the Bohemian; and even the emperor himself.
Who would most profit from the girl's murder--and from having the entire ghetto sealed off? Is the killer a Christian indebted to the girl's apothecary father? Or a messianic Jew bent on the destruction of his people to precipitate the Messiah's coming? The desperate search for answers is complicated by the arrival of a new Holy Inquisitor determined to root out witchcraft and heresy, and reclaim the fractious Bohemian territory for Rome. With time running out, Benyamin must dare the impossible--and commit the unthinkable--to save the Jews of Prague ... and his own life.
Infused with history and spiritual insight, rich in atmosphere and color, The Fifth Servant vividly recreates sixteenth-century Prague--a bustling city where superstition, ignorance, and hatred clash with curiosity, knowledge, and tolerance; a world in which innocent lives are swept away by political and religious struggles, and righteous men and women sacrifice everything in the name of justice and truth.
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"Starred Review. Well-developed characters and detailed portrayals of life at the time help make this historical crime thriller a gripping page-turner." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review.This fast-paced historical from Edgar nominee Wishnia (23 Shades of Black) combines scholarly historical details that bring the 16th century alive with believable characters and a compelling mystery. Highly recommended for mystery lovers and fans of historical fiction." - Library Journal
"A densely philosophical yet surprisingly witty historical mystery." - Booklist
"Works nicely on at least three levels: as history, mystery and theology." - Kirkus Reviews
"Whatever you are currently reading, I promise you it is not nearly as intelligent, witty, compelling or entertaining as The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia....Wishnia makes history come alive." - David Liss, author of The Devil's Company and The Whiskey Rebels
"In his fiercely intelligent and entrancing novel The Fifth Servant, Kenneth Wishnia gives us a 16th- century Prague that is rich, labyrinthine, and utterly compelling. Drawn in first by its soft wit, we soon find ourselves swept into a tale both intricate and haunting, its twists and turns carrying us breathlessly to the very last page." - Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of Bury Me Deep and Queenpin
"The Fifth Servant offers a unique blend of mystery and Talmud set against an intriguing historical background." - Linda Barnes, author of Lie Down with the Devil
"The Fifth Servant proves that academia, wit, and a compelling mystery may all be found in one book. And what a suspenseful, enthralling story this is accessible and hugely entertaining, it is an astounding novel." - Ken Bruen, author of Sanctuary
"The richness of the setting of The Fifth Servant is matched by the complexity and appeal of its characters. With apparent ease Kenneth Wishnia makes solid and real the sounds, sights, and smells of a vanished and legendary time." - S. J. Rozan, Edgar Award-winning author of The Shanghai Moon
The information about The Fifth Servant shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.
Kenneth Wishnia has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, and has been widely published in various academic forums. His crime fiction has been nominated for the Edgar and Anthony Awards. He currently teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Suffolk Community College. He lives with his wife and children on Long Island. He can be found online at www.kjawishnia.com.
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