Street of Death
Mary Ann Mitchell
Medallion, Oct 2007, $7.95
Late in the fifteenth century in Spain everyone fears the Inquisitor, whose Papal direction is to root out heretics and Jews, but never allow blood to flow. Many Jews convert to Christianity to avoid torture, but practice their secret religion inside their homes; if outed they are tortured until they confess. Susana Diego’s lover reported to the authorities that her father was still a Jew so he was burned at the stake and though she lived to give birth to a daughter had her skull nailed to her home to warn others from going down the wrong path.
Susana’s daughter Teresa, unaware of her Jewish heritage, was born at a convent and raised by the sisters. Considered a healer Teresa is sent to the Velez home on the “STREET OF DEATH” to care for the dying wealthy patriarch Roberto, a converted former Jew. His son Luis does not want her in their home at first, but soon finds himself attracted to her courage. As they fall in love, Luis continues to try to learn the fate of a servant Catrin, taken by the Inquisitor. However, family secrets by their parental generation begins to surface placing both in danger as Teresa is accused of witchcraft and Luis of Jewish heresy.
The haunting atmosphere of the Velez home located on the aptly named STREET OF DEATH ironically brings to life the Spanish Inquisition in which loyalty was a commodity not to trust. The family secrets provide fascinating twists that add depth so that the audience fully understands the plights of Jews in fifteenth century Spain; for instance why Luis’ mother is buried where she is. Although Luis’ conversion from disdain to desire seems a stretch, Mary Ann Mitchell paints a dark picture of what mankind did in medieval times and still does to one another in the name of God.