Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak review – Death steals the show again

Five boys alone in a house seek redemption through construction in the long-awaited follow-up to The Book Thief

It takes courage, not to mention a macabre twist of the imagination, to conceive a novel for young adults narrated by Death. Markus Zusak’s 2005 The Book Thief, the story of a young German girl whose family give shelter to a Jewish refugee during the second world war, became an international bestseller. Yet the most arresting aspect of the novel was the first-person perspective of the Grim Reaper, who turned out not to be particularly grim at all, but rather sardonic, personable and remarkably funny.

Death was always going to be a difficult act to follow; and Zusak has laboured for more than a decade on his subsequent work. At almost 600 pages it shares The Book Thief’s epic weight, but is the first of his novels to be promoted ...