TWO FOR JOY by  Mary Reed & Eric Mayer
John the Eunuch Mystery, No. 2
Poisoned Pen Press – January 2001
ISBN: 189020837X - Hardback

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com
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As the title suggest, this is book two in Mary Reed & Eric Mayer’s series about the adventures of John The Eunuch, Lord Chamberlin to Justinian I, emperor of Byzantium.  This time the un conventional sleuth and his friends are certainly put through his paces in order to find out what links the fiery deaths of three stylites, the murder of a friend’s father and the mysterious Michael who wants to rule beside Justinian as Patriarch and whose followers are the cause of riots in the streets.

 The splendor and squalor of Byzantium are all here, from the decadent court to the filthy alleyways.  The authors are adept at depicting a place where promotion or a horrible death depend no t on one’s prowess but on the whim of the emperor or empress, and when the populace decide to riot not even these august personages are necessarily safe.  It is the last gasp of the ancient world before it gives way to the modern and in its exotic mystery it seems to embody something of each.

 To the novel’s detriment it could certainly stand some editing – at times the plot gets lost in a welter of repetitive description and the whole could do with being pulled together to make a more exciting narrative.  “Show, don’t tell” is a good maxim for all writers and although people’s reactions to the riots were profuse a good passage describing the violent clash of opposing parties would have helped enormously.  Towards the end it all came together well and became exciting but the earlier part was too loose for me.  Nevertheless, the mean streets (and meaner court) of old Constantinople sprang in to intense life; John and his friends are an engaging group of sleuths who we learn about bit by bit and I look forward to whatever John’s next adventure is going to be.


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