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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Spies of Sobeck. Paul Doherty. Headline Publishing Group (2008)

A very engaging mystery story set in Ancient Egypt. Nubia was annexed by Egypt and proved to be a very important source of wealth and manpower as well as a continuing source of trouble and discontent. Pharaoh Queen Hatusu finds that a Nubian cult , the Arites, have re-emerged in some force to create fear and terror as part of their plans to free Nubia and possibly take over Egypt as well. A series of mysterious deaths, including that of loyal Nubian soldier and sworn enemy of the Arites who is found strangled in a locked room, create a destabilising atmosphere of fear and concern in Thebes. Amerotke, Chief Judge of the Hall of Two Truths, is given the task of investigating these deaths and unravelling the conspiracy.

The story is well constructed, the reveals are nicely paced and the plot threads are cleverly woven together, the conclusion is sharp and fitting. The historical details are more than window dressing, the action of the story arises very naturally from the context. The details of Egyptian life, politics and religion are provided with a light hand, the cast move through them as if they belong there rather than being modern actors in period dress. Paul Doherty has a gift for quick and lively character building, the cast is large,varied and individual. They all move through the story with clear intent, the story emerges in an very appealing way from their interactions.

Paul Doherty has a very considerable talent for making a remote context accessible and not loose sight of the structural requirements for a mystery, he makes it look all very easy and it makes for a very pleasurable read.

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