Title: The Fifth Servant
Author: Kenneth Wishnia
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition
Publication Date: February 8, 2011
Paperback: 416 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
From the Publisher:
In 1592, Prague is a relatively safe refuge for Jews who live within the gated walls of its ghetto. But the peace is threatened when a young Christian girl is found with her throat slashed in a Jewish shop on the eve of Passover. Charged with blood libel, the shopkeeper and his family are arrested, and all that stands in the way of a rabid Christian mob is a clever Talmudic scholar, newly arrived from Poland, named Benyamin Ben-Akiva. Granted just three days to bring the true killer to justice—hampered by rabbinic law, with no allies or connections, and only his wits, knowledge, and faith to guide him—Benyamin sets off on a desperate search for answers. Following a twisting trail from the streets to the shul, from the forbidden back rooms of a ghetto brothel to the emperor Rudolf II’s lavish palace, he will dare the impossible—and commit the unthinkable—to save the Jews of Prague . . . and himself.
I must confess what first intrigued me about The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia was the setting. I adore history and to this day I still have relatives living in Prague, but I knew little about the events that occurred in and around 1592 in Prague. Wishnia has brilliantly crafted a multilayered historical and religious mystery, which occurs in the late 16th Century. Wishnia gives his book further depth my expounding on the religious and historical events, thoughts and beliefs of the times. While The Fifth Servant is indeed a murder mystery, Wishnia takes his book up a few notches to add in philosophical and theological debate. This is not a light hearted book, rather it is a deeply complex novel with several prevailing threads seamlessly interwoven by Wishnia to create an intelligent and interesting historical fiction mystery. There are a lot of characters and yet Wishnia manages to keep them all well organised and does not make it too difficult to follow. As for using Czech, German, and Yiddish terms throughout the book, Wishnia offers up a glossary in the back for help with translating the foreign words. I found the threads of several different narratives being woven into one was quite solid and proved to be enthralling. Finally it is with exceptionally beautiful and lyrical prose that Wishnia brings his book to life. While I enjoyed The Fifth Servant I must mention it is a deep novel, one must take time reading this to obtain the full effect, not just to follow the mystery, but rather the underlying currents. It is my belief this book would best be read as a discussion group pick, as there are so very many important issues to be debated and discussed. On a whole I would recommend The Fifth Servant to any reader who enjoys an intriguing mystery intertwined in a historical fiction book.
Kenneth Wishnia has a Ph.D. in comparative literature. His crime fiction has been nominated for the Edgar and Anthony awards. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Suffolk Community College on Long Island, where he lives with his wife and children.
To learn more about Kenneth Wishnia please visit his website.
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I received a complimentary copy of The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.