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A VILE JUSTICE
By Lauren Haney
Avon, October 1999 (PB)
Reviewed by J. Ashley (6/2000)
I enjoy ancient Egypt and mysteries set there, so I picked this book up eagerly. I wasn't disappointed.
Haney's series is set in the eighteenth dynasty (the time of Hatshesput and Thutmose). Bak, Medjay police officer of the fortress of Buhen, is summoned by his commander to discuss a series of deaths that have taken place in the northern city of Abu. Three people have died in thirty days, one every tenth day--a young boy, a guard, and a sergeant, all in the governor's household. The governor's assistant, hearing of Bak's previous history of unraveling puzzles, asks him to come back with him and investigate.
When Bak arrives in Abu, he finds the governor and his assistant strangely reluctant to impart information necessary to conduct the investigation. Nevertheless, he begins to question and starts to fit pieces of the puzzle together to discover the identity of the serial killer. His probing uncovers the distasteful past of the governor and several people surrounding him, but the murders continue. Bak's investigation is hampered by the governor's strictures, but he creatively enlists assistance and at last unravels secrets using his common sense and understanding of human nature.
This is a good, straightforward whodunit with well-drawn characters and an expertly depicted setting. Bak proves to be an able investigator who sees the good sense of receiving help from others. I did find the large cast of characters to be, while interesting, increasingly difficult to keep track of. Fortunately, the author provides a guide to her characters in the front of the book as well as a map to the relevant portion of ancient Egypt. The glossary to the various Egyptian gods is useful as well.
The solution, unfortunately, seemed obvious, and I impatiently waited for Bak to catch up. Despite these minor quibbles, the book is a good read. I recommend it for mystery lovers who enjoy whodunits and Egypt. Readers of Lynda S. Robinson's ancient Egypt series will find much to like here.
Haney's series contains the two previous books THE RIGHT HAND OF AMON and A FACE TURNED BACKWARD.
A CURSE OF SILENCE will be available in paperback October, 2000 from Harper. It may be pre-ordered now, at online bookstores.
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