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by Nick Drake
Bantam, May 2006
352 pages
ISBN: 0593054016

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this crime thriller a clever detective is threatened by unseen forces as he walks the mean streets of Akhenaten's new city around 1800 BC. The world of Ancient Egypt has attracted other crime fiction writers and this era of Akhenaten has been popular -- it is not surprising since the opportunities of the upheaval caused by Akhenaten with his change of the old religion for the worship of Aten and his decision to build a totally new capital city are myriad.

Rahotep is in a very difficult situation since he has been sent from Thebes to a city that he has never visited before; moreover, he is in a politically sensitive capital city which has subtle undercurrents as people fight for power and he knows no-one. He is a Medjay (a sort of police officer) and he is allocated two subordinate officers who act as guides and, as he is aware, also spy on his activities.

The chief police officer in the city is angry at the importation of a stranger to investigate a highly charged situation -- the disappearance of Queen Nefertiti. Only the fact that Akhenaten himself has chosen Rahotep for this task keeps the enmity in check but Rahotep is constantly endangered by men in the city including the King himself. Rahotep is threatened personally but, more importantly, threats are made against his wife and his family of three young daughters so he has very serious reasons for achieving success in his investigation.

I found the violence or, more specifically, the cruelty of this book hard to take but I have to accept that it is an accurate reflection of the period and that Nick Drake presents it skilfully and without an excessive amount. He certainly enters into the attitudes of the ancient Egyptians to life and death -- a complex area indeed. His mystery takes account of the attitudes of the time and his solution fits into that framework too.

Reviewed by Jennifer S. Palmer, August 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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