I was sent this book by the author for honest review, and all opinions here are my own. And I’m very glad that Cory Barclay did send it to me, because I really enjoyed it.
Some of you who know your history or werewolf lore will have heard of the story of the Werewolf of Bedburg. Back in the 1500’s people’s fears of the supernatural were at an all time high, which meant the that various natural misfortunes were attributed the the devil, witchcraft and in some cases, werewolves.
In Bedburg, and the surrounding areas, what we would now call a serial killer was on the loose, and his vicious and violent attacks were attributed to a werewolf at loose in the countryside. This book is a historical crime thriller that follows the investigations of Heinrich Franz, a man intent on catching the real killer in the case. He is joined by Georg, an ex-soldier and werewolf hunter with nothing to lose. Thrown into this mix are the villagers of Bedburg, with their religious divide between the old and new versions of Christianity which are at war for their souls. Innocent and beautiful Sybil who might know something about the killings or might be the next victim, and the priest whose faith is being tested by religious politics are also major players who might know more than they’re letting on.
It’s not a tale of the supernatural, but more in the style of the Shardlake series, for example. It intelligently covers the way that the law was enacted, the power that religion and the church had over people’s lives, and the importance of social status in the fortunes of every person. Heinrich investigates at the behest of the higher powers, and their orders are not necessarily concerned with justice, but with results. His motives and methods are often quite repulsive, and it’s a testament to the author that he still feels like an interesting, well rounded character even though he’s morally ambiguous. No one in this book is a mustache twirling, cartoon villain, but each is a well drawn, complex person.
I really like historical fiction, when it’s well researched and written, and this book was like sinking into another time and place. It focuses on the events and killings in one town, and perhaps I would have liked a little more on the history of the killer, the werewolf, before it got to Bedburg, about the hysteria that surrounded it. But that said, it’s a fascinating look at what was going on in that place and time that the idea of werewolves could take hold so strongly. Barclay manages to get so much history and facts across in his story, without it ever feeling like boring exposition or a history lesson.
It’s a book that’s part murder mystery and detective story, and part historical adventure, and if you love your history and your murder mysteries, then this one is for you.
Read It If: you like historical fiction or detective stories, it’s a fascinating look into the times and superstitions that brought us the stories of werewolves.