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Death and the Devil Hardcover – Sep 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 391 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company (Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061349488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061349485
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,218,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

It is the year 1260 and the great cathedral - the most ambitious building in all of Christendom - is slowly rising above the streets of Cologne. Far below its soaring spires and flying buttresses, an assassin of unnatural talent surveys his new hunting ground. More shadow than man, the assassin in quick to take his first life. But there is a witness to his crime: a flame-haired thief known as Jacob the Fox. Justly terrified by the black-clad spectre, Jacob runs for his life, convinced that he is pursued by the Angel of Death itself. For all his street-smart cunning, the wily Fox cannot shake off the assassin - a cruel-efficient murderer who favours a pistol-grip crossbow as his weapon of choice. Fate, injury and desperation lead Jacob to seek help from a beautiful clothes dyer, her drunken rascal of a father, and her learned uncle, a man of God who loves a battle of wits almost as much as he loves a bottle of wine. With the threat of an untimely death at the end of a crossbow bolt never far away, Jacob's unlikely cabal find themselves faced with a conspiracy born of an unquenchable thirst for revenge, a conspiracy that threatened to tear Cologne apart and stain the city with blood. Readers who loved the richly textured setting and historical accuracy of Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth or Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose will be thrilled to discover Frank Schätzing's vivid evocation of medieval Cologne.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Cologne, 1260. The great cathedral, the most ambitious building in all Christendom, is rising above the city. In its shadow seethes a society in ferment: traumatised Crusaders returning from the Holy Land, religious tensions posed to explode into violence, a burgeoning merchant class that despises the old aristocracy and is determined to seize power. Against this backdrop Jacob the Fox, a flame-haired petty thief, witnesses a murder - the cathedral's architect, pushed to his death from the scaffold by a black-clad assassin. Soon Jacob is on the run, convinced the Angel of Death is on his trail, as the killer pursues him through medieval Cologne's seedy underworld. To survive he must uncover a vengeful conspiracy that threatens to tear the city apart and stain the sacred project with blood.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER on 15 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book which I came across quite by chance.

It is well-written, historically accurate and very well put together. As a keen historian, I find nothing more annoying than historical novels that ignore historical fact and reality. This is not one of those annoying books; instead, it is a very honest historical reconstruction of a troubled period in Cologne's history, and its part in the Christian history of the West - all tied up in a microcosm in the small murder mystery that means much more than just the death of one man.

Who are the mysterious strangers who meet and discuss death so casually? And their agent - is he the Devil? And what about the innocents who live in Cologne who get caught in something well beyond their understanding or their everyday lives. An amazing amount of detail and action takes place in Cologne in this wonderful novel over a few days; and the reader gets caught up wholeheartedly in the fast yet thorough pace of the story.

Well worth reading - definitely a winner.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bookwoman TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
I can't decide whether giving this book three stars is too generous or not. Is the clunky prose, unconvincing dialogue and sometimes odd tone the fault of the author, or a too-literal translation? You'd have to be able to read it in the original German to know for sure.
It's a murder/horror story set in Cologne in 1260 as the new cathedral is going up. A mysterious group of wealthy citizens is planning some sort of coup which involves hiring an assassin who murders the cathedral's architect. This murder is witnessed by Jacob, a sneak thief living on his wits on the fringes of society, who is pursued through the city while he tries to expose the plot and stop more murders taking place.
Sounds exciting? Well, despite the complicated set-up it's basically an adventure yarn that, with a bit of editing, might make a good film in the Indiana Jones tradition - there's a lot of close shaves, fights, and hair's-breadth escapes from death.
Some of the book's faults are definitely down to the author, who obviously had ambitions to make it more than a mere adventure story. Be prepared for some very boring lectures on the politics and history of medieval Cologne, and some heavy-handed religious/philosphical discussions which don't bring much to the plot at all. I wish he'd spent more time on developing the characters and relationships, which are all rather two-dimensional - the romance in particular seems a bit of an afterthought. Despite the fact that the assassin is referred to as the devil, he didn't frighten me much. Most of the plotting 'patricians' are interchangeable, and they spend a lot of time talking about their enemy, the archbishop, who doesn't appear at all.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By N. Goebel on 22 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
I read this more than 10 years ago, when it was published in my hometown Cologne as part of the Cologne crime fiction series. Loved it. It's a murder mystery mixed with a little bit of history about the most famous Gothic cathedral in the world. If you liked the Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, this is for you.
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By Aethelred on 21 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not quite a bad book, but it's definitely not a good one. The basic plot is rooted in the civil politics of the city of Cologne in the thirteenth century. Although the famous cathedral (then under construction) and its architect get walk-on parts, they are not central to the tale. An itinerant petty thief witnesses one murder, and stumbles across a conspiracy to commit an even more significant one. So far so good; but whilst the conspirators themselves (a confusing and interchangeable bunch) are clearly bad guys, the target of their plot is an equally unsympathetic character, and the reader doesn't really care whether the plot succeeds or fails.

Interspersed with the tale of the thief, his unlikely allies and a cold-hearted assassin, there are several clunking historical lectures. Yes, the story needs to be set in context, but there are good ways and bad ways of doing this - and stopping the story for three or four pages to lecture the reader is not a good way. In fact this book cries out for an editor. Paring away the repetitions and the info-dumps would save a hundred pages and result in a tighter book.

The plotting stretches credulity to the limit, and some of the prose is rather clunking, too. It is not clear whether this is the fault of the author or the translator. Some anachronistic phrases creep in, too. Surely no-one in the thirteenth century said "We're up a creek without a paddle"? As for "Curiouser and curiouser" - this is ungrammatical English and should only be used by those ironically quoting Lewis Carroll; and certainly not in a book set in 1260.

A book to read and forget.
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By Livvy M on 23 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I swithered between giving this book three stars or four. If I could give it 3.5 then I would. Some parts are excellent, some just plain dull. Basically the chapters alternate between the story of a grand conspiracy hatched by aristocratic families in Cologne in the 13th century and the lives of ordinary folk who are gradually and unwittingly caught up in the plot. The object of the conspiracy is not difficult to work out and the conspirators are so uninteresting that I had great difficulty remembering which was which.

The "ordinary" characters on the other hand are superbly portrayed. I found myself really caring what happened to the petty thief Jacob, his friend Richmodis and her larger than life father and uncle. The scenes involving these characters throb with life and vitality. There is also the character of the arch-villain of the piece, Urqhuart, who appears so evil that he is deemed by some the devil incarnate.

I think that this book would make a superb, fast-action movie. There are some excellent fight scenes and some of the situations are genuinely scary. On the whole, I'll plump for four stars.
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