334 AD, and Alexander is pushing forward into the Persian empire, much to the chagrin of the emperor Darius. Arriving in Ephesus, a newly taken prize, in order to plan his next advance, he finds a divided city being taunted by the memory of a long-dead guild of assassins, the so-called Centaurs.
The city’s leaders have been isolated in the Temple of Hercules, under guard and safe from harm until Alexander is ready to deal with them – or so he thinks. When the temple is entered one morning, everyone inside has been slaughtered – their skulls crushed by something resembling a horse’s hoof? Has someone taken up the name of the Centaur? (Yes) And could they really be the unearthly creature that the name suggests? (No, of course not).
As the Centaur continues to bring trouble to Alexander’s plans, his childhood friend, the doctor Telamon is charged to bring the Centaur to justice. But in this ancient brutal land is the perfect place for a killer to hide himself…
Right, going to be brief (ish) with this one, as I read it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s already beginning to fade from the memory. It’s the second in Paul Doherty’s second series about Alexander the Great. The first, written under the pseudonym Anna Apostolou, should be coming out as an ebook very soon – A Murder In Macedon is scheduled on Amazon, but no sign of A Murder In Thebes (my favourite) just yet. Fingers crossed… Anyway, after these two books, Doherty seemingly started again – although the second series is set after the events of the first, there seem to be some contradictions with the events in A Murder In Macedon, which concerned the murder of Alexander’s father, Philip, and Alexander’s rise to power. The sleuths from the first two books, Miriam and her brother Simeon, have disappeared without trace to be replaced with the physician Telamon.
I can’t put my finger on the reason why, but I prefer the first series. To echo a theme from my last review, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this book (and its predecessor The House of Death) but in comparison, I enjoyed it a little less. If I hadn’t read the earlier ones, I’d probably have loved this book more, but the Apostolou books are two of my favourite works by Paul Doherty. Imagine if you’d read Mrs McGinty’s Dead directly after reading Death On The Nile. Both excellent books, but Death On The Nile is so good, the other pales in comparison. You get the picture.
Anyway, I’ll try and judge this one on its own merits. The recreation of the court of a king whose moods could be politely described as changeable is impeccable, and the city of Ephesus is brought vividly to life – and, it’s worth noting, has it’s own identity. Doherty doesn’t ever use a standard “ancient city” but always makes them distinctive places. There’s no mistaking Ephesus here with, say, Canterbury in The Waxman Murders.
The impossible murder is damn clever, in my opinion, although the solution is a little too close to the aforementioned Waxman Murders – that’ll serve me right for reading them virtually back to back. The identity of the killer – well, that’s a weaker element, as I’d lost track of who was who from a group of characters. That may well be due to the fact that I was reading this in very small chunks due to my minor-but-annoying health issues – never a good way to read a book.
Anyway, enough waffle. I’m rather surprised to see that the series that this book is from is not available as an ebook – shame – but I’m pretty sure it’s recent enough for your local library to have a copy. So as it’s Highly Recommended, happy hunting!