In 13th century Egypt, a king’s envoy and loving family man is sent to investigate the assassination of a hapiru leader, discovering a deadly and treacherous plot. So begins a fine book which combines the splendour and vivid opulence of ancient Egypt with the more conventional cosy mystery genre. Indeed, in the afterword Holmes (an appropriate name, perhaps) reveals plans for additions to the series, and this is reinforced by the book’s tagline “A Lord Hani Mystery”. Perhaps in some ways reminiscent of Name of the Rose, in terms of its sleuth aspect, if in a different ancient setting.
Holmes is a tremendous author, who has created an exciting historical detective. Her writing is warm and alluring, and she draws you subtly and comfortably into the vivid world of her creation, regal Egypt painted onto the page with precision and affection. She undoubtedly knows her ancient history and has a passion for it; this is one of those books which not only entertains but also informs the reader. If there were any inkling of doubt about her credentials (which there wasn’t), this is put firmly in its place by one look at her bio; Holmes is an expert – of that there is absolutely no doubt – and in the main, this book is based on numerous elements and events of historical fact. Included at the end of the book are extremely useful and interesting character list and glossaries - they are testament to the sheer scale of this project, and the huge professionalism of its dedicated author, and I strongly recommend that you make use of them during reading, as the Egyptian character names, terminology and the like can at times be a little difficult to keep track of. That said, whilst in-depth and requiring concentration, it isn’t a particularly complex story, and could perhaps be rendered a touch more concise on occasion. There is much narrative and discussion, and without full attention, the reader can quite easily accidentally skim over the story’s important bullet points, which aren’t always conspicuously discerned; this is therefore a book to be taken seriously, and should be read with attention and interest. To tell the truth, it wasn’t always easy to stay focused. It is long – and by the two-thirds point it does start to feel it a little – and a descriptively profound slow burner, so it may not be to all tastes.
But, it is beautifully written, with some wonderfully developed and endearing characters, and is overall a pleasure to read. A huge feat of professionalism from an outstanding professional author, and I wish this book and its sequels tremendous collective success.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: n-l-holmes ancient-egypt history detective drama mystery