Q

( 4 )

Overview

"650 páginas que nos sumergen en la Europa del siglo XVI, un continente fragmentado por las guerras de religión que generaron el mundo moderno. Este es el marco en el que transcurre Q, una novela de acción que deja sin respiración, que usa un lenguaje acelerado y secuencias cinematográficas con el fin de atrapar al lector y sumergirlo en un magma político y teológico.

Hecha de fe, revolución, conspiraciones y matanzas. Leemos sobre Sajonia y caballeros con armadura. Un trhiller. Un documento. Una novela, así como...

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Overview

"650 páginas que nos sumergen en la Europa del siglo XVI, un continente fragmentado por las guerras de religión que generaron el mundo moderno. Este es el marco en el que transcurre Q, una novela de acción que deja sin respiración, que usa un lenguaje acelerado y secuencias cinematográficas con el fin de atrapar al lector y sumergirlo en un magma político y teológico.

Hecha de fe, revolución, conspiraciones y matanzas. Leemos sobre Sajonia y caballeros con armadura. Un trhiller. Un documento. Una novela, así como una metáfora del presente. Luther Blisset, el inefable alias que significa nadie y todo el mundo, es el protagonista de la telenovela durante treinta años de violencia, saqueo, herejías, Iglesia, excomuniones, corrupción y mentiras.

Q es una novela histórica que triunfó en Italia y el resto de Europa, Federico Gugliemi, Giovani Cattabriga, Luca Di Meo y Roberto Bui son y no son Luther Blisset. Pero ese pseudónimo -que en realidad es el nombre de un jugador de fútbol británico- ha sido usado también por miles de personas, desde delincuentes comunes a cibernautas desde el principio de los 90. Es, pues, sin que nadie sepa muy bien cómo, un "nombre multiple". "

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR Q
"Blissett moves his characters skillfully, pieces on a chessboard whose next square they cannot see, and keeps the reader in suspense until the final, fatal meeting."-SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

"The most compelling recent historical novel about religious strife in the Renaissance . . . If we really want to see what happens when religion drives believers to extremes, it is hard to do better than this vivid, terrifying portrait . . .The characters in Q bleed real blood." -THE NEW REPUBLIC

David Liss
At its best, Q displays an impressive knowledge of the Reformation, its ideas and its principal actors. It is a historical novel of the grand and sweeping sort, one that aims to capture not a life or a moment, but an era of pivotal importance. The authors have gone to great lengths to include information about important figures of the Reformation -- Luther, Philipp Melanchthon and John Calvin -- as well as some significant sites of Protestant foment, including the heady events at Munster and the disaster of Thomas Muntzer's revolt at Frankenhausen.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Rich religious history is turned into bloated, tedious fiction in this Reformation-age epic produced by four anonymous writers lurking behind a pseudonym. In 1517, Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Cathedral. In 1525, a one-time theological student, a radical Anabaptist who goes under a number of names over the course of the narrative, but who is initially called Gustav Metzger, pulls off the first of a number of hairbreadth escapes from heretic hunters keen to spill the blood of any would-be supporter of Luther. For the next 30 years, even as Protestantism slowly makes inroads across Europe, Metzger is tracked by a papal spy who, traveling incognito under the eponymous moniker Q, keeps his boss apprised while he and his compatriots attempt to crush the movement on behalf of the Vatican before the schism widens. Needless to say, they fail. Translator Whiteside has done the best he could with the material: stripped-down chapters breathlessly composed of short, snappy paragraphs ("The girl smiles. She's extremely beautiful") alternate with epistolary passages given a faux-historical gloss. Speech anachronisms abound throughout, especially when events are related by Metzger and company ("`What the fuck did you say? What? So you're not dead, but you scare me anyway, pal, you scare me'"), and most of the characters sound so alike that not only do they remain lifeless on the page, they are often indistinguishable from one another. A good amount of historical research is lumped throughout, but the period stylings are wooden and the story never gains enough momentum to carry readers along. (May 4) Forecast: This was a cult hit in Europe, but will face a struggle in the U.S., despite a striking jacket and enticing doorstop heft. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Crafted by four fledgling authors and published anonymously in Italy, this literary thriller became a best seller with a cult following throughout Europe. In 1517 Germany, as the Reformation gets underway, a fired-up young Anabaptist plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with a papal spy known only as Q. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sprawling cowl-and-dagger novel-by-committee, recounting a game of theological spy vs. spy. Luther Blissett is a learned-allusion pseudonym for four unnamed Italian writers; the publisher tells us only that they are young, and that Q is a "cult bestseller" in Europe. The book has its pleasures, one of which makes for the same kind of fun that Harold Bloom had in distinguishing the authors of the Book of Genesis-namely, identifying the voices of those four young scribes. One of them, it seems safe to say, is quite fond of the earthier matters in life: "He farts, sniggers, swigs. 'Fuck it!' " His/hers is the voice of a mysterious Anabaptist heretic who, inspired by Martin Luther and kindred spirits, travels across Germany stirring up religious dissent, railing against corrupt priests and wayward aristocrats. Against this agent of the Reformation stands the equally mysterious Q, an agent of the papacy, who adds a somewhat more refined if equally strident voice to the mix. Q has a flair for E. Howard Hunt/G. Gordon Liddy-style dirty tricks: for instance, his notion of planting a Luther-style agent provocateur, "more diabolical than the devil's friar, someone who would eclipse his fame and give voice to the desires of the mob" in order to frighten the German ruling class into inviting the pope's armies up north for some good old-fashioned bloodletting. Heretic and Q chase each other across Europe for several hundred pages and a quarter of a century, developing a grudging respect for each other along the way. Set Les Miserables in Reformation Europe, with Javert reporting to an evil cardinal instead of the prefect of police, and you'll have something of this book. Or imagine a Name of theRose-like historical thriller coauthored by, say, Bret Easton Ellis and Zadie Smith: "Watch your arse among the Mohammedans and careful where you stick your cock!"A modest entertainment, holding hours of fun in ferreting out anachronisms once the voices-sorting-out is through. But surely one of the best multiauthor novels of the Reformation to appear in recent times.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156031967
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 766
  • Sales rank: 968,358
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Luther Blissett was, until recently, on the coaching staff at Watford Football Club. A soccer-player, he is perhaps best known for his brief and inglorious stint at AC Milan in the early 80’s. He had nothing to do with the writing of this book.

Frederico Guglielmi, Fabrizio Belletati, Luca di Meo and Giovanni Cattabriga, the real authors of Q, range in age from 26 to 36 and live in Bologna.

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Read an Excerpt

PART ONE

The Coiner

Frankenhausen
(1525)

Chapter 1

Frankenhausen, Thuringia, 15 May 1525, afternoon

Almost blindly.

What I have to do.

Screams in my ears already bursting with cannon fire, bodies crashing into me. My throat choked with bloody, sweaty dust, my coughs tearing me apart.

Terror on the faces of the fleeing people. Bandaged heads, crushed limbs . . . I'm constantly turning round: Elias is behind me. Huge, pushing his way through the crowd. He has Magister Thomas over his shoulders, lifeless.

Where is the omnipresent Lord? His flock is being slaughtered.

What I have to do. Clutching the bags tight. Mustn't stop. My dagger bumping against my side.

Elias still behind me.

A blurred outline runs towards me. Face half covered with bandages, tormented flesh. A woman. She recognises us. What I have to do: the Magister mustn't be discovered. I put my finger to my lips: not a word. Shouting behind me: 'Soldiers! Soldiers!'

I move her aside, to get to safety. An alleyway on the right. Running, Elias behind us, running headlong. What I have to do: try all the doors. The first, the second, the third, it opens. We're in.
We close the door behind us. The noise drops. Light filters faintly through a window. The old woman is sitting in a corner at the end of the room, on a dilapidated wicker chair. A few pathetic objects: a shabby bench, a table, coals from a recent fire in a soot-black chimney.

I walk towards her. 'Sister, we have a wounded man. He needs a bed and some water, in the name of God . . .'

Elias is standing in the doorway, filling it. Still with the Magister on his shoulders.

'Just for a few hours, sister.'

Her eyes are watery, seeing nothing. Her head rocks back and forth. My ears are still ringing. Elias's voice: 'What's she saying?'

I walk closer to her. In the midst of the roaring world, a barely murmured dirge. I can't make out the words. The old woman doesn't even know we're there.

What I have to do. No time to lose. A staircase leads upstairs, a nod to Elias, up we go, finally there's a bed where we can lay Magister Thomas. Elias wipes the sweat from his eyes.

He looks at me. 'We've got to find Jacob and Mathias.'

I put my hand on my dagger and make as though to leave.

'No, I'll go, you stay with the Magister.'

I have no time to answer, he's already on his way downstairs. Magister Thomas, motionless, staring at the ceiling. Vacant eyes, eyelids barely beating, he looks as though he isn't breathing.
I look outside: a glimpse of houses through the window. It looks out on to the street, too high to jump. We're on the first floor, at least there's an attic. I peer at the ceiling and can only just see the cracks of a trapdoor. There's a ladder on the floor. Riddled with woodworm, but it'll hold me all the same. I slip in on all fours, the roof of the loft is very low, the floor covered with straw. The beams creak with each movement. There isn't a window, just a few rays of light slanting in between the chinks: the roof space.

More boards, straw. I'm practically lying down. There's an opening out on to the roofs: sloping. Magister Thomas will never make it.

I go back down to him. His lips are dry, his forehead is on fire. I try to find some water. On the floor below there are some walnuts and a jug on a table. The sing-song chant drones endlessly on. When I put the water to the Magister's lips I see the bags: better hide them.

I sit down on the stool. My legs hurt. I hold my head in my hands, just for a moment, then the hum becomes a deafening roar of screams, horses and iron. Those bastards in the pay of the princes are entering the city. Run to the window. To the right, in the main street: horsemen, pikes levelled, are raking the road. They are furiously attacking anything that moves.

On the other side: Elias pops out into the alleyway. He sees the horses, stops. Foot soldiers appear behind him. There's no escape. He looks around: where is the omnipresent Lord?
They point their spears at him.

He looks up. He sees me.

What he has to do. He unsheathes his sword, hurls himself at the foot soldiers. He's ripped one open, butted another to the ground. Three soldiers are on him. Their blows bounce off him, he clutches the hilt of his sword with both hands like a scythe, still slicing away.

They leap aside.

Behind him: a slow, heavy gallop, the horseman charging behind him. The blow knocks Elias flying. It's over.

No, he's getting up: a mask of blood and fury. Sword still in his hand. No one goes near him. I can hear him panting. A tug on the reins, the horse turns round. The axe is raised. Back at a gallop. Elias spreads his legs, two tree roots. His head and arms turned to the sky, he drops his sword.
The final blow: 'Omnia sunt communia, sons of whores!'

His head flies into the dust.

The houses are being ransacked. Doors smashed in with kicks and axe blows. We'll be next. No time to lose. I lean over him. 'Magister, listen to me, we've got to go, they're coming . . . For the love of God, Magister . . .' I grasp his shoulders. He whispers a reply. He can't move. Trapped, we're trapped.

Like Elias.

My hand clutches my sword. Like Elias. I wish I had his courage.

'What do you think you're doing? We've had enough of martyrdom. Go on, get out while you can!'
The voice. As though from the bowels of the earth. I can't believe he's spoken. He's moving even less than before. A knocking and crashing from below. My head is spinning.

'Go!'

That voice again. I turn towards him. Motionless.

Crash. Down goes the door.

Right, the bags, they mustn't be found, come on, over my shoulders, up the ladder, the soldiers are insulting the old woman, I slip, nothing to hold on to, too heavy, come on, I drop a bag, damn! They're coming up the stairs, I'm in, pulling up the ladder, shutting the trapdoor, the door's opening.
There are two of them. Landsknechts.

I'm able to spy on them from a crack between the floorboards. I mustn't move, the slightest creak and I've had it.

'Let's just take a quick look and we'll be off, we're not going to find anything here . . . Hang on, though, who's this?'

They walk over to the bed, shake Magister Thomas. 'Who are you? Is this your house?' No reply.
'Right, then. Günther, look what we've got here!'

They've seen the bag. One of them opens it.

'Shit, there's just paper, no money. What's this stuff? Can you read?

'Me? No!'

'Neither can I. It might be important stuff. Go downstairs and get the captain.'

'What's this, are you giving me orders? Why don't you go?'

'Because I was the one who found the bag!'

In the end they make their minds up, the one whose name isn't Günther goes down to the ground floor. I hope the captain can't read either, or we're fucked.

Heavy steps, the one who must be the captain climbs the stairs. I can't move. My mouth is burning, my throat choking with the attic dust. To stop myself from coughing I bite the inside of a cheek and swallow the blood.

The captain starts reading. I can only hope he doesn't understand it. In the end he lifts his eyes from the paper: 'It's Thomas Müntzer, the Coiner . . . You might say the penny's dropped.'

My heart leaps into my throat. Delighted expressions: double pay. They drag away the man who declared war on the princes.

I stay there in silence, unable to move a muscle.

The omnipresent Lord is neither here nor anywhere else.

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First Chapter

Prologue
Out of Europe, 1555

On the first page it says: 'In the fresco I'm on the in the background.'

The meticulous handwriting, no smudges, tiny. Names, places, dates, reflections. The notebook of the final fevered days.

The yellowed and decrepit letters, the dust of decades.

The coin of the kingdom of the mad dangles on my chest to remind me of the eternal oscillation of human fortunes.

The book, perhaps the only remaining copy, has never been opened.

The names are the names of the dead. My names, and those who have travelled those twisting paths.

The years we have been through have buried the world's innocence for ever.

I promised you not to forget.

I've kept you safe in my memory.

I want to recall everything, right from the beginning, the de tails, chance, the flow of events. Before distance obscures my backward glance, muffling the hubbub of voices, of weapons, armies, laughter, shouts. And at the same time only distance allows us to go back to a likely beginning.

1514, Albert Hohenzollern becomes Archbishop of Magdeburg. At the age of twenty-three. More gold in the Pope's coffers: he also buys the bishopric of Halberstadt.

1517, Mainz. The biggest ecclesiastical principality in Ger many awaits the appointment of a new bishop. If he wins the appointment, Albert will get his hands on a third of the whole German territory.

He makes his offer: 14,000 ducats for the archbishopric, plus 10,000 for the papal dispensation that allows him to hold all these offices.

The deal is negotiated via the Fugger bank of Augsburg, which anticipates the sum required. Once the operationis concluded, Albert owes the Fuggers 30,000 ducats.

The bankers decree the mode of payment. Albert must pro mote the sale of the indulgences for Pope Leo X in his territory. The faithful will make a contribution to the construction of St Peter's basilica and will receive a certificate in exchange: the Pope absolves them of their sins.

Only half of the takings will go to the Roman builders. Albert will use the rest to pay the Fuggers.

The task is given to Johann Tetzel, the most expert preacher around.

Tetzel travels the villages for the whole of the summer of 1517. He stops on the borders with Thuringia, which belongs to Frederick the Wise, Duke of Saxony. He can't set foot there.

Frederick is collecting indulgences himself, through the sale of relics. He doesn't tolerate competitors on his territories. But Tetzel is a clever bastard: he knows that Frederick's subjects will happily travel a few miles beyond the border. A ticket to paradise is worth the trip.

The coming and going of souls in search of reassurance infuriates a young Augustinian friar, a doctor at Wittenberg University. He can't bear the obscene market that Tetzel has set in motion, with the Pope's coat of arms and the papal bull in full view.

31 October 1517, the friar nails ninety-five theses against the traffic in indulgences, written in his own hand, to the northern door of Wittenberg church.

His name is Martin Luther. With that gesture the Reformation begins.

A STARTING point. Memories reassembling the fragments of an era. Mine. And that of my enemy: Q

Carafa'eye (1518)

Letter sent to Rome from the Saxon cit of Wittenberq, addressed to Gianpietro Carafa, member of the theoloqical meetinq held by His Holiness Leo X, dated 17 May 1518.

To the most illustrious and reverend lord and honourable master Giovanni Pietro Carafa, at the theological meeting held by His Holiness Leo X, in Rome.

My Most Respected, Illustrious and Reverend Lord and Master,

Here is Your Lordship's most faithful servant's report on what is happening in these remote marshlands, which for a year now appear to have become a focus for all manner of diatribes.

Since the Augustinian monk Martin Luther nailed his notorious theses to the portal of the cathedral eight months ago, the name of Wittenberg has travelled far and wide on everyone's lips. Young students from bordering states are flowing into this town to listen to the preacher's incredible theories from his own mouth.

In particular, his sermons against the buying and selling of indulgences seem to have enjoyed the greatest success among young minds open to novelty. What was until yester day something perfectly ordinary and undisputed, the remission of sins in return for a pious donation to the Church, seems today to be criticised by everyone as though it were an unmentionable scandal.

Such sudden fame has made Luther pompous and over bearing; he feels as though he has been entrusted with a supernatural task, and that leads him to risk even more, to go even further.

Indeed yesterday, like every Sunday, preaching from the pulpit on the gospel of the day (the text was John 16, 2: 'They shall put you out of the synagogues'), he linked the 'scandal' of the market in indulgences with another thesis, one which is to my mind even more dangerous.

Luther asserted that one should not be overly frightened of the consequences of an unjust excommunication, because that concerns only external communion with the Church, and not internal communion. Indeed, only the latter concerns God's bond with the faithful, which no man can declare broken, not even the Pope. Furthermore, an unjust excommunication cannot harm the soul, and if it is sup ported with filial resignation towards the Church, it can even become a precious merit. So if someone is unjustly excommunicated, it can even be seen as a precious merit. S0 if someone is unjustly excommunicated, he must not deny with words or actions the cause for which he was excommunicated, and must patiently endure the excommunication even if it means dying excommunicated and not being buried in consecrated ground, because these things are much less important than truth and justice.

Finally he concluded with these words: 'Blessed be he who dies in an unjust excommunication; because by being subjected to that harsh punishment because of his love of justice, which he will neither deny nor abandon, he shall receive the eternal crown of salvation.'

Uniting the desire to serve you with gratitude for the confidence that you have shown in me, I shall now make so bold as to convey my opinion of the things that I have mentioned above. It seemed clear to Your Most Reverend Lord ship's humble servant that Luther had sniffed the air and smelt his own coming excommunication, just as the fox scents the smell of the hounds. He is already sharpening his doctrinal weapons and seeking allies for the immediate future. In particular, I believe he is seeking the support of his master the Elector Frederick of Saxony, who has not yet publicly disclosed his own state of mind as regards Friar Martin. Not for nothing is he called the Wise. The lord of Saxony continues to employ that skilled intermediary, Spalatin, the court librarian and counsellor, to assess the monk's intentions. Spalatin is a sly and treacherous character, of whom I gave you a brief description in my last missive.

Your Lordship will have a better understanding than his servant of the disastrous gravity of the thesis put forward by Luther: he wants to strip the Holy See of its greatest bulwark, the weapon of excommunication. And it is also apparent that Luther will never dare to put this thesis of his in writing, since he is aware of the enormity that it represents, and the danger it might present to his own person. So I have thought it opportune to do so myself, so that Your Lordship may have time to take all the precautions he considers necessary to stop this diabolical friar.

Kissing the hand of Your Most Illustrious and Reverend Lordship,

I beg that I may never fall from grace with Your Lordship.

Your Lordship's faithful servant

QWittenberg, 17 May 1518
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 4 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2009

    Q is more about the times in which it's written than the times in which it's set.

    The authors of Q have an interesting idea: they see similarities in how powerful institutions can make ideas of radical change seem dangerous, whether the ideas are about religion in 1525, or about capitalism today. One problem they run into is that this idea is not quite enough to make a novel, and things people look for in good novels--like strong characters and dialogue--gets neglected so that they can expound this idea.

    Another is that their idea itself is limited in its usefulness. Too often the story indulges in a kind of wish-fulfillment that imagines that but for evil forces of coercion and deception, people would choose a radically egalitarian mode of life free of the constraints of property ownership and family.

    This is ultimately too simplistic a notion to describe the complexity of the issues facing the different contestant visions of Christianity in the sixteenth century. And too often, religious belief in Q is seen through the lens of current questions of political ideology rather than in a way that takes spiritual life seriously for its own sake.

    This is why despite the fact that the narrators of Q meet some of the most fascinating figures of this era, including Martin Luther and the future Queen Mary I of England, we do not hear their voices setting forth their ideas about the world, and instead get the lengthy and repetitive discourses on these subjects from Q's main character, that could frankly pass as lectures on theory in a modern graduate humanities classroom.

    This doesn't just do a disservice to the intellectual giants of sixteenth century Europe, or their various beliefs and struggles. It also does a disservice to the ideas that the authors of Q (writing under the pseudonym Luther Blissett) are trying to advance, because it looks quite simply like they are trying to dodge a debate with a 500+ year old dead monk because they fear they might lose.

    Which in something that proclaims itself a "novel of ideas" is a shame. If only Luther, or better yet More, or best of all Erasmus, could write such a novel about the intellectual limitations of anarcho-syndicalism and the contemporary post-Marxist European left, we might be better served than we are by "Luther Blissett's" efforts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2004

    reformation made interesting

    Q Luther Blisset 7/4/2004 A very good novel about the time of the Reformation. The title refers to a character who is a spy for the Inquisition, involved in toppling the various protestant sects and ultimately establishing the power of the church. The story is told mainly from the point of view of a German free- lancer and mercenary, who first became involved with a radical peasant revolt, then with Anabaptists, and at the end as a subversive working with the Jewish people in Venice. Very richly detailed, moves at a good pace, has a complex plot and engaging characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2007

    How do you read this book?

    There is no way to follow this book it is very poorly written. Just a bad idea that should have been abandoned. The style of writing is just unbearable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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