In the year 1260, under the supervision of the architect Gerhard Morart, the most ambitious ecclesiastical building in all of Christendom is rising above the merchant city of Cologne: the great cathedral. Far below the soaring spires and flying buttresses, a bitter struggle is underway between the archbishop of Cologne and the ruling merchant families to control the enormous wealth of this prosperous commercial center—a struggle that quickly becomes deadly.
Morart is the first of many victims, pushed to his death from the cathedral's scaffolding by a huge man with long hair, clad all in black. But hiding in the branches of the archbishop's apple orchard is a witness: a red-haired petty thief called Jacob the Fox, street-smart, cunning, and yet naive in the ways of the political world. Out of his depth and running for his life, he soon finds himself engaged in a desperate battle with some very powerful forces.
Most dangerous of all is the killer himself—a mysterious man with remarkable speed, strength, and intelligence, hiding dark secrets that have stripped away his humanity and turned him into a cruel, efficient hired assassin who favors a miniature crossbow as his weapon of choice. But who is he killing for?
Jacob the Fox—uneducated and superstitious—fears the killer is the Angel of Death himself. But the wily Fox makes an alliance with some of the strangest of bedfellows: a beautiful clothes dyer, her drunken rascal of a father, and her learned uncle, who loves a good debate almost as much as he loves a bottle of wine.
Can this unlikely foursome triumph against the odds and learn the truth of the evil conspiracy before their quest leads to their death at the end of a crossbow arrow?
Readers who loved the richly textured setting and historical accuracy of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose will thrill to discover a new novel through which they can vicariously enter the medieval world. With its vivid evocation of both the rich and powerful and those struggling to survive another day at the bottom of society's rungs in the Cologne of 1260, Death and the Devil, the first novel by Frank Schatzing, sends a clear announcement to the literary world that an important new voice in fiction is here.