By Nick Drake

Bourbon Street Books, 2012, c2011 ($14.99)

ISBN-13: 978-0-06-076595-8

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

King Tutankhamun is dead, and his widow, Queen Ankhesenamun, is now married to the ancient and infirm Ay. She has no heir, no prospect of one under her current situation, and the powerful General Horemheb, who controls the military forces, is poised to take over the country if she doesn't find a way to strengthen her position. She comes up with a plan that involves the help of one who has come to her aid before: Rahotep, formerly the best Seeker of Mysteries in the Thebes police force, the Medjay. He is now out of favor with the Medjay, assigned to the most menial investigations.

Rahotep is frustrated when he is pulled off a particularly horrendous case. The decapitated bodies of five Nubian boys, most likely drug runners, are dumped in the street like garbage. As he tries to make sense of the crime scene, Nebamun, Chief of the Medjay, strides up and tells him to forget about it. Just five more street urchins, a few more victims of the war between rival drug gangs, no loss. Nebamun had taken the job that should have gone to Rahotep, and he resents the favor Rahotep had received from Queen Nefertiti, and later by her daughter Ankhesenamun and her husband Tutankhamun. Nebamun has only contempt for the man who is obviously a better detective than he'll ever be.

But Rahotep will not let this case go. He finds a strange clue that may take him to the leaders of a new, vicious opium cartel that is threatening to bring his beloved city to ruin. When a dear friend becomes a victim of the group, Rahotep vows to himself that he will find those responsible and bring them to justice.

His wife is not happy with his decision. He had promised her, after coming too close to death too many times, to be cautious, and to never leave his family again. When the queen asks him to undertake a secret mission that has a high probability of failure, he agrees, in part because of his loyalty to her, and in part because the trip far into enemy territory may give him the chance to find the people in charge of the cartel. His good friend Nakht, a wealthy envoy to the queen, offers his home to Rahotep's family, and tells him they will be provided for should the two of them not return from the mission. He knows his wife may never forgive him, but his sense of duty is stronger than his promise to her.

The ill-conceived mission to the Hittite royal court goes horribly wrong, and Rahotep faces more danger than he's ever known before. He also suffers a devastating betrayal he would never have believed possible. Will he lose all he holds dear? Read this incredibly interesting journey into the ancient past and find out.

This is the final volume of Drake's excellent trilogy on Egypt. The first is Tutankhamun: The Book of Shadows; next is Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead. I recommend reading them in order. And I most definitely recommend reading them. Fans of historical mysteries, Egyptian history, and excellent, well-researched writing will enjoy them.

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