Freight Books Freight Books
The Wolf Trial by Neil Mackay

Format: Hardback with jacket, Demi, 216 x 138mm, 352pp

ISBN Code: 978-1-910449-72-1
Neil Mackay

Neil Mackay is a multi-award winning investigative journalist, newspaper executive, non-fiction author, radio broadcaster and film-maker.

Read more about the author

The Wolf Trial

by Neil Mackay


Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose meets Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho in this brilliant historical epic.

Inspired by an extraordinary true case – the first ever documented account of a serial killer in world history.

In the second half of the 16th century, Paulus Melchior, lawyer, academic, and enlightened rationalist, travels with his young assistant Willy Lessinger to the isolated German town of Bideburg where local landowner, Peter Stumpf, is accused of brutally murdering dozens of people. A society still trapped in a medieval mindset, the townsfolk clamour for the killer to be tried as a werewolf. If their demands are met, his blameless wife and children will also be executed in the most barbaric way imaginable as agents of Satan and creatures contaminated by wolf blood.

Paulus and Willy must fight superstition, the cruelty of those who fear what they don’t understand, and a zealous church determined to retain its grip on the souls of Bideburg in this compelling, utterly unforgettable, shocking tour de force.

Praise for The Wolf Trial

‘Mackay is a gripping storyteller and the tale is most enjoyable when the court rings with Paulus’ clever rhetoric, championing logic over superstition.’ The List

‘In the best possible way, The Wolf Trial is a horrible book… In the world of The Wolf Trial, our best selves fizzle into inconsequence when compared to the bestial savagery of unfettered human nature. This is a novel that has the courage of its convictions.’ Herald

‘The novel is written with assurance and authority. Time and place are evoked vividly and memorably. It is full of horrors, like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch or a Tarantino movie. […]’ Scotsman

‘A great storyteller’ Louise Welsh

‘Mackay writes with real storytelling brio, and the pages are dripping with atmosphere and seemingly authentic historical detail. […] he has a journalist’s eye for a captivating story and the angle of maximum human interest throughout. A highly impressive piece of work, and a sign of an author really pushing his own boundaries as a writer.’ Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue

‘First, a warning. This novel isn’t for the squeamish. Then again, neither was 16th century Germany, yet Neil Mackay brings its crimes and cruelties, heresies and horrors to life with all the manifold skills of a natural-born story-teller. A frighteningly impressive achievement. Imagine a land in which Christianity is as bloodthirsty as Isis, and where the punishments heretics face make Bosch’s nightmares look timid. That’s what Neil Mackay has done here, turning back to 16th century Germany and the world’s first recorded trial of a serial killer for an impeccably crafted story that also never stops rooting out answers to the question of evil.’ David Robinson, author of In Cold Ink

The Wolf Trial is an audaciously imaginative novel, as haunting and atmospheric as The Name of the Rose, as beautifully written and finely plotted as An Instance of the Fingerpost. It is a novel to savour, to relish its fine and beautiful sentences, its cunning plot, its rich evocation of a brutal time and place. A joy to read… this is historical crime fiction at its very finest.’ Elaine S Thomson author of Beloved Poison

‘The tale is gripping, the violence extreme, and the storycraft utterly superb… The Wolf Trial will be one of the landmark texts of the year, without a shadow of a doubt.’ Sogo Magazine

‘Mackay, through his narrator, draws amazing portraits of people… I was fascinated by the tension between achieving justice and commiting revenge.’ A Bookish Type

‘If you like a horror story you’ll love it, if you are a serial killer fan you’ll love it, if you like novels with a deeply ingrained historical flavour you will REALLY love it, assuming of course you don’t faint at the sight of blood.’ Liz Loves Books

‘Horror lovers and history buffs will be enthralled reading this book. The writing is absolutely superb and the epilogue is masterful.’ Book Haunt

‘Mackay is a wonderful storyteller and this is a remarkable novel which rcreates a dark period of history.’ Yorkshire Post

‘Neil Mackay’s latest novel has one of the most unique pitch lines ever: the world’s first serial killer is captured, but put on trial as a werewolf. Here, the author gives us the inside story on a fascinating tale that’s perfect for fans of historical fiction, crime and horror.’ Daily Record

‘An epic tale.’ Scots Magazine