The greatest strength of Wishnia’s mystery set in 16th century Prague is its erudition. Filled with heavily detailed descriptions of life in the Jewish quarter, woven through with Talmudic arguments, Yiddish and Hebrew, Jewish law and custom, it is an education in itself. That dedication to research is also its greatest weakness. At times I lost the train of the plot or the vividness of the characters amidst the plenty. I would have preferred a more organic blending of necessary background into the story. Too often I felt removed from his exotic world by all the information rather than absorbed into this fascinating place and time. It is true that a meandering, complicated and multi-stranded form of discussion reflects the Talmudic reasoning of his main characters, and I think that’s at least part of Wishnia’s intent, but fewer tangents would have allowed me to enjoy the whole more. Wishnia brings a dark, ironic sense of humor to his mystery which many will enjoy. His narrative voice is cynical toward both the Jews and Christians. His implicit critique of fanaticism and intolerance within both religions is perceptive and timely, even if his characters are from the 16th century in the likes of a bishop hunting for witches and gleefully torturing pretty young women.