When last we met Amerotke, in The Mask of Ra, Queen Hatusu had apparently secured the throne of Egypt by her victory in the desert against the Mitanni. But she has opponents who believe that Tuthmosis’s young son – Hatusu’s stepson – is the true heir to the throne. To silence her opponents, she needs the support of the high priests of the gods, who have convened at the Temple of Horus to discuss that very matter. Unfortunately a) most of the high priests are among her opponents and b) the number of loyalists is dropping due to a number of brutal murders.
On top of being sent to the Temple to root out the killer – and find proof of Hatusu’s legitimacy to the title of Pharoah – Amerotke also has to sort out the disappearance of two men in a labyrinth in the desert and the identity of a soldier, returned from the dead.
All in a day’s work…
So, what to say, what to say? Or, more precisely, what to say that I haven’t said before about Paul Doherty’s work?
It ticks a lot of the same boxes. It’s a great read, with an engaging lead and a central clever plot. It’s full of colourful background, bringing ancient Egypt to life. Amerotke’s supporting cast are entertaining while not distracting from the plot. See, replace ancient Egypt with medieval England and Amerotke with Athelstan, and you’ve got all of the plus points from that series. Ditto, Corbett.
The little niggles are still there as well. Some of the high priests aren’t given a big enough part to be realistic suspects and tend to blend into one, a common problem that I’ve found in the author’s work.
The murders are sufficiently creepy though, and, as usual, the central plot is a devious one. Yes, the locked room murder isn’t particularly complex, but Doherty realises that by solving the how well before the who. The choice of murderer is a good one – it’s quite guessable (and, as usual, the clues are thin on the ground) – but it makes sense.
What I’ve perhaps overlooked in my many, many reviews of Paul Doherty’s books, is his strengths as a storyteller. There are a number of stories being told here, from Amerotke’s development, the murderer’s story, the story of the throne of Egypt and so on. It’s easy for a murder mystery to focus on the murder plot and nothing else, so the big picture here is to be applauded.
So, as I said, the numerous good points and minor niggles share a lot in common with a lot of Doherty’s other works. So, also in common with his other works, this comes highly recommended.
I’ve been following your posts on Paul Doherty. I really like the Corbett series, but I have no real interest in ancient Egypt. Perhaps if the mysteries are good enough I can overcome my ambivalence about the setting and jump in. Do these need to be read in order?
A bit. Certainly I’d read the first one, The Mask of Ra, first, as certain characters there are present in the second one and therefore clearly not the murderer. Can’t speak for the rest yet.
I empathise with your medieval preferences – if you’re fond of good mysteries and you’ve read Corbett, I’d check out the Athelstan series instead. It’s his best work, I think.
Well, I read them sort of out-of-order and that did not diminish any of the fun for me, but, if you plan to read the entire series, it’s advisable to start off with The Mask of Ra. But if you just want to sample one of them I recommend The Anubis Slaying, which is the best of the lot and has one of his cleverest locked room tricks.
Your review did turn out to be a little more favorable than mine. Glad you enjoy it and you will love the next part in the series.
Looking forward to it. To be honest, these don’t grab me as much as the medieval ones – or even the Roman ones – but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Still, it was a good read, and I’ll get round to the next one soon.
[…] The Horus Killings by Paul Doherty […]
[…] ever, recommended. An improvement over The Horus Killings, as the threads weave together better here, and I’m looking forward to my next Doherty already. […]