The Fifth Servant

The Fifth Servant

3.37 (304 ratings by Goodreads)
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"Whatever you are currently reading, I promise you it is not nearly as intelligent, witty, compelling, or entertaining as The Fifth Servant....Wishnia makes history come alive."
-- David Liss, author of The Devil's Company

A brilliantly imagined, beautifully written combination of scrupulously researched historical novel and riveting suspense thriller, Kenneth Wishnia's The Fifth Servant carries readers back to 16th century Prague in the shadow of the Papal Inquisition--and introduces a uniquely unforgettable protagonist, a young Talmudic scholar who has three days to solve a heinous murder before official reprisals decimate the city's Jewish community. A richly atmospheric tale of religion, mystery, and intrigue, The Fifth Servant recreates life in the era when Emperor Rudolph II occupied the throne--a time of uncertainty and fear viewed through the eyes of an intrepid rabbinical student on a quest for truth and justice.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 398 pages
  • 134.62 x 203.2 x 27.94mm | 317.51g
  • Harper Paperbacks
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Maps; Illustrations, black and white
  • 0061725382
  • 9780061725388
  • 1,066,021

Review quote

"The Fifth Servant proves that academia, wit, and compelling mystery may all be found in one book. And what a suspenseful, enthralling story this is--accessible and hugely entertaining, it is an astonishing novel."--Ken Bruen, author of Sanctuary
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Back cover copy

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.
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Rating details

304 ratings
3.37 out of 5 stars
5 14% (42)
4 33% (99)
3 36% (110)
2 12% (37)
1 5% (16)

Our customer reviews

I'm really torn on how to review this book. Because on one hand, I think it was absolutely brilliant although at times I felt as if the author was writing for a specific audience and, while I'm on the fringed edge of that audience, there were parts I just couldn't grasp, and on the other hand I found that the mystery was more of a distraction then anything else. I think the best way to review The Fifth Servant is to look at it two ways; first, as a murder mystery and second, as a historical novel dealing with the friction in 16th century Prague between the Christians and the Jews. As a murder mystery, I found The Fifth Servant to be lacking. The details of the murder were so lost in all of the politics between religions, the rich descriptions of Prague, the smattering of strange words (although a helpful translation guide is located at the end of the book - something I figured out about 3/4ths of the way through), and the endless debating that the Jews are portrayed to do. While the murder was, initially, a fantastic hook into the story, it just seemed to slowly grow less and less the main focus of the book, although the characters actions tried to keep it a focus. There was simply too much going on. Which leads me to the second thing this book is, a historical novel. As this, I found the book to be incredible. I knew so little about this time period and place that I found everything to be fascinating. I had no idea that the Jews had their special place (and relative protection) and for the reasons stated in this book. I found the descriptions and language to be completely immersive and, understandably, I felt lost at times because I was not familiar with street names and the Hebrew and Czech languages. I think for a history buff, and someone interested in the religious and political aspects of this novel, that there are few out there that can compare. It's obvious that Kenneth Wishnia has done his research and spent much time and effort in creating a book that would, as accurately as possible, capture 16th century more
by Lydia Presley
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