What do you get if you cross Christian Jacq with Paul Doherty? Probably this book, which
mixes the daily lives of those in the Place of Truth (there is even somebody called Paneb)
with dark and dastardly murders.
Semerket is an embarrassment to his family, and his ex-wife. Drunk and disorderly,
he can often be found shouting outside the house of his former wife's new husband or passed
out in a bar. When an elderly priestess is murdered, he seems an ideal person to choose
to solve the murder, or rather not to solve it. Somebody doesn't want the murderer revealed,
but Semerket is determined to get to the bottom of it all whatever the cost.
Although it sags in the middle a bit with the usual sequence involving the investigator
wandering about a lot and not learning anything new, this is an entertaining tale. Ancient
Egypt springs to vibrant life and for once is not shown to be perfect, but very warts-and-all.
The Egyptians are not a wantonly cruel people, but punishments for transgressions are
harsh, and some of their ways are depicted as being suitably strange.
In keeping with the tone of the book, there are many supernatural happenings that might
put some readers off as they cannot all be explained away, but as in Jacq's books this tends
to add to the ambience. It is a time that believed in magic, so there is magic. I felt
that this was preferable to anachronisms, of which this book seems mercifully almost free.
My main real criticism is that the author needs to bring more to the series that is just
his own, something that only his books have in them. I kept thinking that this novel did
seem to be a distillation of the two authors mentioned earlier, but it is only a first
book. I will be reading the next book in the series to see what develops.