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Prague Nights by Benjamin Black
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Prague Nights

by Benjamin Black

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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 |
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 |
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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