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.