1478 BC, Thebes. The Pharaoh Queen Hatusu is plagued by tomb robbers, plundering treasure from the burial chambers of the dead. The Sebaus, a sect of assassins, have raised their profile and when they raid the tomb of Rahimere, her traitorous former adviser, Hatusu is determined that they be stopped. Enter Chief Judge Amerotke, charged with rooting them out. But the Sebaus know how dangerous Amerotke is, and their numbers are legion…
In the meantime, Amerotke has other concerns. The war hero General Suten is found on his isolated rooftop bitten to death by vipers, something that he had a morbid fear of. Everything seems to come back to the Temple of Isis, where four handmaidens have vanished without trace and the guard captain is found with his heart removed, meaning he will not be able to enter the afterlife. Are the crimes linked and, if so, can Amerotke get to the bottom of things before the Sebaus get to him?
How odd, it seems that I’ve gone back to the Original Sins thread. Last time we were (somewhat unsuccessfully) in Ancient Rome and this time we’re back in Ancient Egypt. And, yet again, it seems that there’s only one series that, so far, seems to be engaging me in the era. As with The Slayers of Seth, this is another success from Paul Doherty in bringing the almost alien world of Egypt to life without ever needing to resort to lecturing the reader about it. Odd customs are dealt with matter-of-factly, such as the fact that a body having its heart removed will prevent it from reaching the afterlife, a fact that everyone simply accepts. Some writers would insist on putting in a character, usually the lead, who questions such a custom with an unexpectedly modern point of view, but that’s not the case here and all the better for it.
One of the other things worth note is Amerotke’s lack of invulnerability. A number of lead detectives would just blunder around while assassination attempts happen around them. Amerotke seems actually scared at times – although the assassins that he does meet are necessarily not the most competent. Only when he sees the threads come together does his courage and confidence return as he sees a way to trap the leader of the Sebaus.
Mystery-wise? It’s hard at times to know what to focus on – there’s various bits and pieces going on and it’s, to be honest, a bit of a guessing game. There is really only one explanation that fits all of the facts and it’s pretty complicated in places. Some parts get fairly short shrift – the missing temple girls seem important early on but less so as the plot develops. It works better as a thriller than a mystery, but there is still a decent whodunnit underneath it. No real clues, apart from the “only one thing makes sense of all of the facts” thing.
All in all, though, another great entry in a strong series. Highly Recommended.