Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Century (Random House)
Release Date: February 2004
ISBN: 1844130274
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre: Historical Crime [1096 Byzantium]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Mosaic of Shadows
By Tom Harper

     Eleventh century Byzantium is a refreshingly different setting for a historical whodunit, so top marks for originality for this tangled tale. Somebody has tried already to assassinate the emperor, so it is up to mystery solver Demetrios Askiates to try and find out whodunit. Held up by the unpleasant eunuch Krysaphios, Chamberlain to the emperor, and also by just about everybody else, he has to get to the bottom of things before the city is overrun by barbarians, better known to us as the First Crusade…

     Due to the uniqueness of its setting, it is enjoyable enough to simply read about what life was like back then in all its intricate and dangerous glory. It is easy to see how the practice of referring to the complex and arcane as “Byzantine” came about, and Askiates has his work cut out for him to find out anything at all. At times the story lags somewhat as he plods around the city looking for clues and often not finding any, but these mean streets are new to us readers so a little leeway can be given here; there is more to this type of story than plot. I thought that the best thing was being able to look at familiar things from a new angle, as Askiates encounters Saxons working for the emperor with tales to tell of conquering Normans. Also, we are used to looking at history through the eyes of the valiant crusaders, but to the sophisticated Byzantines they were just a vast swarm of barbarians, up to no good. East meets West here, and we see history through new eyes. I do hope this will be the first of a new series.