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Death and the Devil    by Frank Schatzing Amazon.com order for
Death and the Devil
by Frank Schatzing
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

With the runaway success of The Swarm - originally in Europe and now in the United States - Shatzing's first novel, Death and the Devil, has been translated and published in North America. It's a medieval thriller; a murder mystery set against the back drop of thirteenth century Cologne. This is a completely different genre and story line than the SF/horror of The Swarm.

It is the year 1260, and the crowning achievement of Cologne the great cathedral reaching to the heavens is almost complete. Its architect, Gerhard Morart, is a proud and respected man in the city. That is, until he is pushed from the one of the windows high up in his beloved cathedral. He plunges to his death, whispers two words, and then dies. The people of Cologne believe it an accident or suicide, except for one young boy, Jacob the Fox so called because of his noticeable red hair who happened to be sitting in a tree stealing apples when Morart fell. Only Jacob saw Morart high up in the cathedral, and he also saw the black shadow behind push the architect out of the window.

Now Jacob is on the run from this shadow. He believes that the devil is chasing him and will not stop until he is dead. Jacob must use the city to his advantage, make as many allies as he can, and always keep one step ahead of this shadow, or he will be done for. The shadow is in fact a cold-hearted killer, a cruel assassin who will not stop killing until all proof of Morart's murder is erased.

And so the chase continues in the richly detailed medieval city. In a style and texture reminiscent of Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, as well as Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, Death and the Devil will both educate and terrorize. Schatzing has done his research well: readers learn of medieval life in a big city, the different classes, the power of the nobles over the poor, the power of the church; at the same time they will be biting their nails in fear and excitement each time Jacob the Fox barely escapes the cruel black nails of the man he believes is the devil. Death and the Devil is a thriller that will delight any fan of this genre.

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