Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Death and the Devil-Frank Schatzing

Death and the Devil
Frank Schatzing
Morrow, Aug 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061349485

In 1260 in Cologne, German architect Gerhard Morart continues to lead the construction of the greatest cathedral the world has ever known. A dozen years since he and others began the pious project, Morart and his select crew build the rising spires of this extraordinary ecclesiastical edifice at the same time an acrimonious war between the church and the merchant middle class has divided the city. The archbishop of Cologne and the ruling merchants see the profit to be made from this incredible complex cathedral as each wants to own and control it.

Suddenly with the end somewhat in sight, homicide takes control of the hostilities. Someone pushes Morart off of the partially completed roof to his death in the street below. No witness steps forward. However, the sly thief Jacob the Fox not only saw who shoved the architect off the scaffolding, but heard Morart’s final words. However the killer saw Jacob and he and his fellow conspirators know who this witness is from his red hair. They swarm the city planning to kill him and anyone he is seen talking to as no one must know the truth re who assassinated the architect.

DEATH AND THE DEVIL is a terrific historical fiction tale based on the real death of the Cologne Cathedral master architect Morart in 1260. Readers know early on who killed him (and subsequently others) and the identities of his fellow conspirators, but not why Morart had to die. Besides a deep look at thirteenth century Cologne, readers obtain a sense of the power struggle between a rising pragmatic merchant society (the medieval middle class) and the Church. Genre readers will fully appreciate the talent of Frank Schatzing, as this is a winner even in translation from the original German.

Harriet Klausner