We’re staying in Ancient Egypt for “Original Sins” but leaping forward one and a half millennia from Death Comes As The End to 333 BC and the reign of Hatusu, Queen of all Egypt. Chief Judge Amerotke is investigating the apparent poisoning of the suitor to the daughter of a General in Pharoah’s army, one of the legendary Slayers of Seth, a unit devoted to the Egyptian God of Death. As Amerotke begins to find evidence that this is more than it appears at first glance, he finds himself distracted by an assassin stalking the streets of Thebes. The other Slayers of Seth are being picked off one by one by a figure wearing a Horus mask, the brother and sworn enemy of Seth. As more and more people are murdered in a variety of ways, Amerotke struggles to find any logic to the situation – surely it can’t be related to the missing body of the witch-queen of the Hystkos tribe, massacred by the Slayers of Seth years previously?
The fourth of the seven Amerotke novels – I think Paul Doherty has mentioned that Amerotke will be back in action soon – this takes a slight departure in tone. There’s no impossible murder in sight – instead we have what appears at first sight to be a serial killer thriller attached to a domestic poisoning. But looks can be deceptive…
Let’s face it, odds are this is going to be a positive review. Regular readers will be well aware of my obsession with Paul Doherty but to be honest, the Amerotke books haven’t been my favourite of his various series. Not really sure why – for some reason it hasn’t quite clicked with me.
This is different. Very different, and for a number of reasons.
First of all, as I’ve been trawling through the Ancient World in my “Original Sins” strand since the beginning of the year, and so far, there have been varying degrees of authenticity. Every author has made an attempt to create an authentic atmosphere, in descriptions and in dialogue, with varying degrees of success, but Doherty completely nails it here, showing exactly how it should be done. The characters seem to be from another culture and, while you can completely relate to this issues that arise, at no point does the author need to make compromises for the modern audience. This is by far the best recreation of the era by quite some distance.
Second, I have to say that I was completely engrossed by this book. Yes, the murderer is pretty guessable and the plot hinges on whether you realise something about someone, but the big picture would take some working out. But there’s something about the ending… well, it brought a tear to my eye. Never happened to date with anything that I’ve read for the blog, so that says something about how effective this book is.
Yes, it’s not a heavily clued mystery, and there are parts where the purist mystery fan could even claim that Doherty cheats with some bits of misdirection. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a fantastic read and, if there was a “Best Original Sin” award, then this wins it hands down, so far. Highly recommended.
WHERE CAN I GET IT?
On ebook for a fiver, and paper copies are still fairly easy to find.
Oh, and a bit of news – there are three short stories from Paul Doherty now available as ebooks – one featuring Amerotke and one featuring Brother Athelstan – and apparently more to come.