The Poisoner of Ptah by Paul Doherty

6 PtahEgypt, circa 1475 BC, and there’s a poisoner on the loose. Some years previously, a priest at the temple of Ptah (Egyptian God of Craftsman) was finally revealed as the assassin known as the Rekhet, an expert at poison and responsible for countless deaths throughout the city. Banished to a desert prison, he was expected to die there. But he has escaped, bent on revenge. And no-one seems to know exactly what he looks like…

Meanwhile in Thebes, a delegation of Libyans are being welcomed with all of the ceremony that Hatusu, Pharoah of Egypt, can provide. After a drinking vessel is passed around, three Egyptian priests drop dead – poisoned! But the Libyans drank from the vessel as well. Did one of them poison the bowl – or is the Rekhet resumed his deadly tricks?

As Amerotke struggles with this mystery, he is also charged with finding the truth behind the death of a merchant and his young wife, drowned in their pool which no-one could have approached. But he soon finds a link with the Rekhet there as well. Can he possibly locate this shadowy assassin before the body count hits double figures?

No, he can’t. I counted, and we’ve got at least ten dead in this one. It is a Paul Doherty book after all, and even his harshest critics can never accuse him of not constantly moving the plot forward.

As with all of my favourite series, I tend to save the last books for a while. Although Paul has made noises of a return to Egypt, there seems to be no sign of Amerotke’s return on the horizon. But this is book six out of seven, so there’s still one left for me.

I won’t go into the plot too much – the impossible drowning is a little too technical for my tastes in its solution (a diagram of the compound would have helped) and I can’t imagine anyone being surprised by a plot twist around 75% of the way in – but it’s still a cracking read. As ever, Thebes comes to life, from its delights to its horrors and the story is steeped in background detail without it ever replacing the plot.

Mystery-wise, the clues are there – just about – but one half of the mystery is more deducible than the other. But it’s a real page turner and a highly entertaining read. In some ways, I wish that Paul hadn’t been restricted by his page count as so much is going on here, an extra 100 pages or so would have been appreciated to give some breathing room and perhaps a little more information on the drowning situation.

But still, while this series never quite measures up to the Hugh Corbett or Brother Athelstan series for me (probably as I’m basically more interested in Medieval England), it’s still well worth reading and is Highly Recommended.


  1. I hope to get to this series before too long… I recently finished In the Time of the Poisoned Queen, written under the name Ann Dukthas. I think this one would appeal to your taste in medieval mystery; the impossible crime put a smile on my face.


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