Wolf on a String: A Novel (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
Benjamin Black is the pen name of the Man Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville. The author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed series of Quirke novels—as well as The Black-Eyed Blonde, a Philip Marlowe novel—he lives in Dublin.
"John Banville's novel Kepler was published in 1981. Now, using the pen name he has adopted for his mystery novels, he returns to [an] exciting era when science and superstition were battling for supremacy.... The ornate style of [the] narrative suits both this rich historical period and the courtly language of Prague, this 'city of masks and make-believe.' "–The New York Times Book Review
“Black [is] a master of high-class crime fiction, literary noir in the tradition of Georges Simenon and Raymond Chandler…. In characteristically gorgeous prose, he conjures a wintry world of opportunists and occultists, dwarves and hunchbacks, wolves and shadowy black-winged beasts….The marvelously evoked ‘city of masks and make-believe’ is the [novel’s] great pleasure.” –Guardian (Ireland)
"A master class in historical mystery fiction — and because it’s Banville holding the pen, it also includes some of the finest sentences in the English language."–The Village Voice
"Immensely enjoyable.... A gem of a book, presented without pretension but with the literary flair that Banville/Black brings to all of his books." –St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"It’s Prague in the late 1500s, where the eccentric Rudolf II rules the Holy Roman Empire.... As you’d expect from a Man Booker winner like Banville, [this] plunge into palace intrigue and power struggles is spirited, vivid, and soulful." –The Seattle Times
"Black's 16th century murder mystery is rife with twists and turns, and his characters' dialogue convincingly captures the history and social issues of the period."–NJ.com
“If the Benjamin Black novels are, in the John Banville corpus, the equivalent of Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments,’ [Wolf on a String] must go down as one of the most entertaining…. The interplay of such twinned contraries—stars and darkness, snow and stone, desire and destruction, Black and Banville; each entity illuminating the other—also supply the sparkling style and steely themes of the engrossing, wide-ranging, sneakily ambitious work.” –The Irish Times
“A swirling kaleidoscope of intrigue, art, blood, sex and magic…. Cleverly, and often amusingly, Black introduces several real characters to his fictional narrative…. A stirring, captivating and perfectly enjoyable read.” –Independent (Ireland)
"Absorbing.... Black not only evokes the unsettling atmosphere of medieval Prague and the whirling series of political and sexual intrigues of Rudolf's court, but also of cold, hunger, fear, threat, squalor and danger."–The Statesman
"Black displays his mastery of yet another mystery sub-genre in this brooding, atmospheric whodunit set in 16th-century Prague…. Superior prose complements the intricate plot.”–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Rich, expansive…. [A] dark, vivid mural of Prague at the turn of the 16th century.” –Kirkus Reviews