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Wolf on a String: A Novel by Benjamin Black
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Wolf on a String: A Novel

by Benjamin Black

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Well, this isn't the best book I've ever read. I so wanted to love a historical crime novel set in Prague, but it was so slow, dull and nonsensical that it's a wonder I finished it at all.

You don't learn much that isn't already in the blurb until over 100 pages in, then nothing of note happens until a minor character reveals a whole load of crucial backstory three-quarters of the way in.

Meanwhile, the prose is 75% description/metaphor, the main character does nothing whatsoever to advance the plot and just sleeps with every woman he encounters while wistfully comparing them to his mother (!), and the other characters are so slightly drawn that you don't care about any of them at all.

I just can't believe that Benjamin Black is a pseudonym of the much admired John Banville. I can't say that I'll be rushing to read any more of either writer's work in the future. ( )
  mooingzelda | Aug 18, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I tried to give the book a chance, but I really couldn't get past the writing style, being a first person narrative in the period, the prose was simply dreadful, and the action started too late and too meandering to force me to get past that. ( )
  command3r | Aug 1, 2017 |
Prague Nights

I found this one hard to get into, although I've enjoyed his series set in Dublin. In complete contrast, this book is set in Prague in the reign of Rudolph (the same time as Elizabeth I) 16th century Bohemia is full of plots and out young hero who arrives in town to make his fortune and instead finds a dead body. For some idea of the style:
*
I was a young man still, barely five and twenty, bright, quick and ambitious, with all the world before me, ripe for conquest, or so I imagined. My father was the Prince-Bishop of Regensburg, no less, my mother a serving girl in the Bishop’s palace: a bastard I was, then, but determined to be no man’s churl.
*
Black's afterword makes it clear he finds the period fascinating, but the book never really flew for me. Endless plotting behind a largely inept ruler obsessed with alchemy meant the crime seemed forgotten for most of the book ( )
  charl08 | Jul 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was my first experience reading a novel by Benjamin Black. I had heard good things about him, and I was very excited to read this book. It takes place in a time period I am very interested in and combine it with a murder it seemed very promising. I liked the descriptions of the setting and characters.

I ended up feeling disappointed in this book. I found that the plot moved forward at an extremely slow pace. I found myself skimming some parts later in the book simply because it was a chore to read this book. I found the summary of the book to be more interesting than the book actually was. I think the author could have made this book more interesting but focused too much on situations that did not help enough with the plot. I understand wanting to make readers connect with the characters, but it was too much description with little action for me.

I also thought that the plot seemed a little rushed at times when we were actually reading something that moved it forward because so much time had been spent on the minor details. It not only made the important parts seem rushed but it made the plot seem unrealistic. Our main character was suddenly figuring things out with hardly any time spent on his investigations. I think if there had been a little bit of balance between the descriptions and the plot the book would have been much more enjoyable.

If you like historical mysteries you could give this book a try, but it would not be my first recommendation. ( )
  BittyCornwell | Jul 14, 2017 |
Winter 1599 and young scholar Christian Stern arrives in Prague. After finding the dead body of a young woman Stern is thrown into jail but swiftly rescued by a man important in the court of Rudolph II. The woman was Rudolph's mistress and Stern is task to find her killer. However in the cold city Stern doesn't know who to trust and the politics of court mean that he could also be in danger.

Benjamin Black is the pen-name of top literary fiction writer John Banville and this book is the start of a new populist series of historical mysteries. The genre is packed and, whilst entertaining enough, this book is nowhere near the best. I did like the setting in Bohemia at the turn of the 17th century, the links to the Elizabethan court and interest in alchemy but I found the characters a little one-dimensional and the plot jumps around a little too much. That's not to say that I wouldn't persevere with the series. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jul 1, 2017 |
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"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, here is a historical crime novel that delivers both a mesmerizing portrait of a lost world and a riveting tale of intrigue and suspense."--… (more)

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