The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon

Zimler’s portrait of the Lisbon (and the New Christians’ uneasy place within it) enriches his many-layered narrative, in which a suitably complex cast of characters plays a dangerous game with fate.
— The New York Times
Cover: The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon

The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon
Richard Zimler | 1998


The year is 1506, and the streets of Lisbon are seething with fear and suspicion when Abraham Zarco is found dead, a naked girl at his side. Abraham was a renowned kabbalist, a practitioner of the arcane mysteries of the Jewish tradition at a time when the Jews of Portugal were forced to convert to Christianity. Berekiah, a talented young manuscript illuminator, investigates his uncle's murder, and discovers in the kabbalah clues that lead him into the labyrinth of secrets in which the Jews sought to hide from their persecutors.

A challenging mystery and a powerful indictment of the evils of intolerance, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon is an extraordinary and spellbinding historical thriller.

  • Published in 23 languages

  • Bestseller in 13 countries, including the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Portugal and Australia.

  • More than 550,000 copies sold worldwide

  • #1 Jewish title on and

  • #1 Kabbalah title on and

  • #1 Jewish Fiction title on and

  • Chosen by three British critics as Book of the Year

  • Winner of the Herodotus Award in the USA for best Historical Novel


Beating the System in Stanford Magazine
By Heather Millar | July/August 1998
New York publishers said his novel would never sell. So he peddled it to the rest of the world first.


Review in The New York Times

Reviews from readers on Goodreads

Wikipedia Page


“I loved ‘The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon.’”
— John Le Carré

“Richard Zimler is a present-day scholar and writer of remarkable erudition and compelling imagination.”
—The Spectator (UK)

“Explosive, prophetic and unquestionably brave.”
—Newsday (USA)

“A riveting literary murder mystery, this novel is also a harrowing picture of the persecution of 16th-century Jews and, in passing, an atmospheric introduction to the hermetic Jewish tradition of Kabbalah.”
—Independent on Sunday (UK)

“Gripping, richly written and overflowing with historic detail.”
—New York Times (USA)

“Zimler is a present-day scholar and writer of remarkable erudition and compelling imagination.”
—The Spectator  

“Historical accuracy, the structure of a mystery, the pace of a thriller . . . a fascinating novel with a spellbinding subject matter”
—Elle (Portugal)

“Vividly rendered . . . drenched in atmosphere and period detail.”
—Wall Street Journal (USA)

“The novel’s suspenseful twists are full of both shadow and luminosity – and are as intricate as the miniature paintings and designs of manuscript illumination.”
—Jewish Week (USA)

“A superbly structured book that can be read on different levels, like a true kabbalistic text. Light-years better than the usual bestselling novel.”
—A Tribuna (Brazil)

“A unique mixture of historical novel and thriller, telling a tale of intolerance and the deeper significance of violence, crime and death.”
—Diário de Notícias (Portugal)

Richard Zimler