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by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2003
292 pages
ISBN: 1590580311

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this prequel to the John the Eunuch series set in Constantinople during the 6th century AD, we learn how John and Felix first met, and how John started on the path that led him to the office of Lord Chamberlain for the Emperor Justinian.

It is the winter of 525 and Justin I is gradually falling into senescence. Although Justinian is ill, Theodora will do anything in her power to make him recover so she can reign as Empress. Gangs of men roam the streets. The Blues seem ascendant for the moment..the Greens relegated to hiding in corners. But since the Greens aren't around, the Blues are terrorizing the populace.

A wealthy benefactor is killed in the Great Church at the foot of the statue of Christ which he commissioned and paid for, along with 3 other benefactors of the Church, and which many think is blasphemous, apparently by a blue. John, a young slave, is called upon to work with Felix, a Palace Guard (excubitor) from Germania to find the culprit who defiled the holy place.

Felix and John learn to work together because if they don't find out who murdered Hypatius, their lives will be forfeit. Reed and Mayer have once again brought to life an ancient city in an almost forgotten past by peopling the streets of Constantinople with characters, both fictional and real, that live. We find out how John and Felix' friendship originated, how John met Isis the whoremistress, his first meeting with Theodora, whose dislike of John grows into hatred in later books.

I was gobsmacked when I read ONE FOR SORROW. I enjoyed TWO FOR JOY and THREE FOR A LETTER. This book gives us the background to the other 3 books, and I think it is almost as good as ONE FOR SORROW. May this pair write many more, introducing us to new situations and characters in each.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, February 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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