The Wolf Trial

Neil MacKay. Freight (IPG, dist.), $22.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-910449-72-1
Set in Germany in 1563, this engrossing, if extremely grim, thriller from Irish writer Mackay (The War on Truth) centers on a conflict between church and state. Investigating magistrate Paulus Melchior and his 16-year-old assistant, Willie Lessinger, arrive in the isolated mountain town of Bideburg, where Paulus is to preside over the trial of Peter Stumpf. Stumpf was arrested after a campaign of terror in the region, which left more than 60 people torn to shreds and eaten. Stumpf doesn’t deny his responsibility for those savageries, but disputes that he’s a werewolf, despite reports from the soldiers who apprehended him that they saw a wolf killing a child and transforming into a human. The question of Stumpf’s true nature is more than academic, since a human killer would fall under the jurisdiction of the secular courts, but a supernatural one under the church’s authority. The graphic descriptions of Stump’s cannibalistic murders are matched by ones of acceptable cruelties of the time, adding up to a powerful, but depressing, portrayal of the very worst of human nature. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
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