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by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2004
259 pages
ISBN: 1590581121

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It is 542 AD and the plague has come to Constantinople. John the Eunuch, Lord Chamberlain to the Emperor Justinian, is begged by his servant, Peter, to find the body of Peter's old friend, Gregory. An angel came and told him that Gregory was dead and Peter does not want him to be put into an unmarked mass grave with the rest of the plague victims. John, being a believer in Mithra, not a Christian, doesn't believe the angel bit but he cares for his servant, so he goes to find out about poor, destitute Gregory.

As he walks the streets of the city, he discovers that Gregory was indeed stabbed to death -- murdered and not a victim of plague -- but Gregory was not the poor ex-soldier Peter believed him to be. John feels honor-bound to discover the murderer, but with all the deaths in the city, it will not be a simple task. He learns more of Gregory's life and worries about Peter, who has locked himself in his room, fearing that he will bring the plague to John's household.

The plague lasted for another 50 years and killed about half the population of Europe. It returned 800 years later, and killed many more. FIVE FOR SILVER recreates the frightening beginning of the plague in the East. Imagine living in a time when superstition rules and there is little or no scientific basis for medical treatments.

Reed and Mayer claim that this is the darkest of the books in the John the Eunuch series. Perhaps it is, but none of them are cozies. As usual, they have done a superb job in recreating the past. This is the best since ONE FOR SORROW, the first in the series and still my favorite. I am only sorry that I have read all the John the Eunuch books and have a whole year to wait until the next one appears.

If you can find all the books in the series, do so. If not, don't wait. Start with FIVE FOR SILVER -- you can always go back and read the first four. And you will want to.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, January 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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