If you are willing to examine your Christian beliefs, this book is for you, especially if you are Catholic. If you are interested in how Christianity...moreIf you are willing to examine your Christian beliefs, this book is for you, especially if you are Catholic. If you are interested in how Christianity changed over the last 2000 years, this book is also for you. It focuses on a seemingly narrow topic: Why do we have priests? In the very early years of Christianity, there were no priests. Jesus definitely did not like them. And Christian priests did not come into play until about 150 CE or later.
The rationale for them seems to be based on a single "letter", Letter to Hebrews. This document almost didn't make it into the canon. It reintroduces the idea of a sacrifice, and that only priests can prepare and present the sacrifice to God, per Jewish law. Therefore, because Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, only priests can present the Eucharist. Or so the reasoning goes.
Wills is definitely erudite but readable. I took longer to read this book than necessary because I switched books in the middle. But not from boredom.(less)
This is the sort of book I want to have on my bookshelf so I can read it again in about 5 years, after refreshing my memory of the Reformation, the co...moreThis is the sort of book I want to have on my bookshelf so I can read it again in about 5 years, after refreshing my memory of the Reformation, the counter Reformation, and the Thirty Years War. This is a glimpse into that turbulent period.
Frantz Schmidt is the executioner. His father, under threat of death, was forced to become an executioner by an erratic Margrave. Because society at that time was very conscious of status, class, and reputation, with executioners being at the bottom of the heap along with waste collectors, knackers, tanners, etc., the children of executioners could only become executioners themselves. This is the story of how Meister Schmidt, with singleness of purpose, spent his entire life in the effort to regain his family's honorable status. After he retired, Frantz petitioned the emperor to restore his family honor; his petition was granted.
The basis for the book is Frantz's journal, wherein he recorded all his executions and punishments. This is supplemented by the writings of several pastors, the recordings of the governing council of Nuremberg, and marriage, birth, and death registers as well as other sources.
At the start of the 16th century, there was really no system of justice in Franconia and the rest of southern Germany. Retribution was meted out by the offended party, or sometimes by the collective action of the villagers. The type of punishment and the severity of it varied greatly from village to village. But as the margraves and barons began to exert their authority over the general population, they also began to claim the right to administer justice. This justice had to be seen to be administered fairly, hence the very public hangings, beheadings, floggings, etc., all administered by the executioner. Meister Schmidt filled a much needed roll, and it was a fairly lucrative position. But he was shunned by virtually everyone. He was not admitted to any pubs, or the church, or similar social gathering. He basically had no friends; no one wanted to be seen associating with him, so he was never invited to other homes, nor did anyone dare to be seen going into his home.
So to rise above this station, he never drank, never associated with others at the bottom of the social ladder, and was always seen to be a pious man. He was also a very effective executioner. Only three beheadings over the course of his career required more than one sword stroke. Because of the public nature of the punishments and the need for the governing councils to be seen as in control, Frantz was expected to carry out the punishments in a very controlled manner; he managed to accomplish this in virtually every instance.
In contrast to his official role, he also practiced the healing arts. He knew how to reset bones as well as break them, how to mend wounds instead of causing them. Consequently the people of Nuremberg came to him for healing, for which he charged an appropriate fee. This side business was almost as lucrative as his official business.
And in spite of his isolation, he married and fathered six children. None of them survived, nor did his wife. They were all killed by the plagues that periodically swept through Nuremburg. Frantz himself died at the age of eighty, apparently also killed by the plague.
I found this to be a fascinating and compelling biography of Meister Schmidt and his world in southern Germany.(less)
I have to agree with the other reviewers who gave it a 3 star rating. I read a lot of mystery/detective books, some of which should never have seen th...moreI have to agree with the other reviewers who gave it a 3 star rating. I read a lot of mystery/detective books, some of which should never have seen the light of day. This is not one of those, but it definitely lacks something, or else something gets in the way of the reader.
Perhaps it is the switching between first person (criminal) and third person; not a technique I am fond of. I also think the author spends too much time on subplots.
The lead detective Freya is a sympathetic character, fairly well drawn, as is her supporting DC, Nathan. And kudos for creating an entire village and cast of characters. Some of the supporting characters, such as the jewelry store manager, seem better drawn than the leading characters.
I should add that I read the third book in this series, but liked it less than this one.(less)
Fascinating book. These authors are clearly authorities in the subject matter and love to solve mysteries buried in Jewish biblical writings. The refe...moreFascinating book. These authors are clearly authorities in the subject matter and love to solve mysteries buried in Jewish biblical writings. The references include not only the Bible, but the Qu'ran, the New Testament, Josephus, and many midrash writings.
The book is actually 30 chapters, each about 5-10 pages long, that picks apart 30 well-known stories in the Old Testament to get at "the rest of the story." The early Israelites had many myths and legends that the writers of the Bible wanted to obscure as the culture moved from many gods to one God. But the old myths and stories weren't totally obscured. The authors manage to remove the veil of history and get at the real story.
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (QoS): According to the main Biblical story, Solomon and QoS did not have a sexual relationship. The editors of the Bible did their best to obscure this because they didn't feel it was an appropriate topic for the Bible. However, the use of certain key phrases give away the erotic content: "Who is she who comes up from the dessert like columns of smoke, in clouds of myrrh and frankincense, in all the powders of the merchant?" And the Ethiopian national epic, Kebra Nagast, states that Menelik I was conceived during QoS visit to Solomon. It is also established that Solomon had a special floor made in the palace so that QoS would be forced to raise her skirt, thereby allowing Solomon to judge how hairy her legs were.
The giving of the Law: Moses gave the law to the Hebrews twice, first at Marah, then at Sinai. Joshua, just before his death, gave it to the Hebrews a third time.
This is just a sampling. Five stars because this book will stay on my shelves for additional reading.(less)
Not the best in this series, but still entertaining.
Carson Ryder is off for a much needed vacation in Kentucky's Red River Gorge. But of course like a...moreNot the best in this series, but still entertaining.
Carson Ryder is off for a much needed vacation in Kentucky's Red River Gorge. But of course like any fictional detective, he gets called in to help with a series of bizarre murders in the local area. Jurisdiction is soon transferred from the locals to the FBI, leading to a three way conflict between the local sheriff, the FBI, and the Kentucky Department of Criminal Investigation. Consequently the investigation is side tracked, and Ryder and the detective from DCI go off and pursue their own path.
Ryder's brother Jeremy again shows up and as usual, proves helpful, but not in exactly the way other people appreciate.
To be truthful, I am beginning to get a little tired of Jeremy. He is starting to come across as almost a superhero, who just happens to be a pyschopath. Which I suppose is the intent, but not very believable. Nevertheless, I will read any sequel that comes out.(less)
I have enjoyed most of Kerley's books, and this is no exception.
Carson Ryder is tapped to go to New York to help find a killer whose calling card is n...moreI have enjoyed most of Kerley's books, and this is no exception.
Carson Ryder is tapped to go to New York to help find a killer whose calling card is not too dissimilar to that of his brother, Jeremy, who escaped from a mental hospital. It also involves a sexist cop, and a female detective trying to prove herself.
Jeremy, as described by Carson, is brilliant, with an IQ off the charts. He also is very good at spotting people who are slightly unbalanced so he can take advantage of them. Both attributes play a significant role in this thriller.
The connections between Angie, Carson, and Jeremy require Carson to walk a tightrope. Why and how this is discovered leads to other revelations that helps bring closure for another cop.
One of the characters I really like is Carson's partner, Harry, whose sense of color coordination is sort of tone deaf.
I can't say too much more about the plot without giving it away. This is an entertaining read, enough so I will continue to read them.(less)
A gruesome double murder greets DI Phillip Brennan. It has some of the hallmarks of two earlier murders. So it is kind of a surprize that the two earl...moreA gruesome double murder greets DI Phillip Brennan. It has some of the hallmarks of two earlier murders. So it is kind of a surprize that the two earlier murders weren't really connected until this third one.
Part of the plot involves a cop who is a bit of ladies man. The cop had a prior relationship with one of the suspects/witnesses. Resolution of this conflict comes with a price. But resolution of this conflict also plays into resolution of the murders.
This has a good plot, with several surprizes along the way; in the hands of a better writer it would get a higher rating. I doubt that I will read another book by this author. Hence the two stars.(less)
It sure is nice to have Rebus back in action, accompanied by Siobhan. Rebus has been called out of retirement to help solve cold cases. He is consider...moreIt sure is nice to have Rebus back in action, accompanied by Siobhan. Rebus has been called out of retirement to help solve cold cases. He is considered an adjunct, not really a member of the police force. But he may be considered for re-instatement if all goes well, which an underlying theme to this novel.
A mother is looking for her daughter, who disappeared some time ago but the case has gone cold. Then other young women start disappearing, and the mother becomes more insistent. From that point forward, Rebus kicks into action and starts driving the investigation.
Definitely a good read; I hope Rebus continues for a long time.(less)
This is my first Inspector Banks mystery. This is much better writing than many recent mysteries I have read. For example, within the first 9 pages, t...moreThis is my first Inspector Banks mystery. This is much better writing than many recent mysteries I have read. For example, within the first 9 pages, the reader is introduced to most of the characters in such a way that they become 3 dimensional immediately. The characters themselves are acting, talking, and thinking, rather than have the author describe what they are doing.
Another nice touch is that the author presents the clues as Inspector Banks uncovers them; so about halfway through the book the reader knows who the culprit is, and the rest of the book is figuring out why. But Banks hasn't yet figured out who the culprit is, so it plays out pretty well.
At any rate, the basic plot centers around a woman who has a small role in the local theater production of Twelfth Night. She is found murdered, nude, with a record on continuous play. Turns out she is a lesbian with some talent for acting. As does the rest of the cast, so how do the coppers know who is telling the truth?
As usual, Minette Walters goes behind the facade and takes a hard look at the participants of her novels. Both novellas are fiction but based on true...moreAs usual, Minette Walters goes behind the facade and takes a hard look at the participants of her novels. Both novellas are fiction but based on true events. Chickenfeed describes, from the viewpoint of the victims, how a manipulative woman brought about her own death and the death of her lover. A very good look at how very different personalities create a lethal situation. Tinderbox is also about a manipulative woman who is only unmasked at the last. But the other participants could not have been so manipulated if they hadn't been so bigoted and trusting, including the police.(less)