Poisoned Pen Press
Date: March 2004
it at Amazon
Historical Crime [542, Byzantium]
Rachel A Hyde
Mary Reed & Eric Mayer
the Eunuch is back for a fifth (mis)adventure, the hapless Lord
Chamberlin to that decadent pair Justinian and Theodora. Byzantium
is in the grip of the plague, and chaos reigns as people die in
droves; nobody is safe. John’s elderly servant Peter has seen
an angel telling him that his old army friend Gregory has been murdered,
and justice must be done. John naturally takes up the case, but
interviewing suspects proves hard as they keep dying, and not because
they have been murdered. Gregory was a man with a secret, and John’s
investigations will take him to bear trainers, a dodgy antique seller,
a philanthropic lawyer and the household of an oracle-obsessed ship-owner.
Not to mention a mad holy fool who dances with the dead and invades
It isn’t easy to conjure up the terrible
depredations of the plague, have a tragic hero and manage plenty
of laughs as well but Reed & Mayer deliver the goods once again.
The magnificence and squalor of Byzantium as the ancient world gives
way to the modern is conveyed not with pages of descriptions but
the characters themselves, their doings and beliefs, fears and passions.
The secretive and melancholy John remains as tantalizingly elusive
as ever, while his friends and colleagues bring humor and color
to this plague-infested and tangled tale. Riding alongside the plot
itself is the fifth chapter of the characters’ lives, loves
and careers and it is this too that makes the series so very readable.
In this particular novel some earlier faults such as a need for
editing and repetition seem to have been ironed out so perhaps it
is with even more anticipation that I eagerly await book six. An
enjoyable, hard to guess and historically evocative treat.