Author – Nick Drake
Published – 2011
Genre – Crime fiction
I was lucky to get a free copy of this book when I attended Goldsboro Books’s “Crime in the Court” event earlier this year.
The future of Egypt lies in the hands of chief detective Rahotep when he undertakes a clandestine mission across enemy empires and rogue states to deliver a top-secret letter, written by the Queen to her arch-enemy, the King of the Hittites.
It is a mission from which Rahotep may not return. But he also has a wildly personal motive; to seek out a depraved murderer at the heart of a mysterious and brutal new opium cartel that has emerged within the criminal underworld of Thebes.
His quest brings Rahotep face to face with his own dark demons, which he must conquer if he is to return home in time to save Egypt’s greatest dynasty and his own family from the terror that threatens them all . . .
Set in 1320 BC this is the third in Nick Drake’s Egyptian series, featuring Rahotep, the “Seeker of Mysteries”. Rahotep is both a member of the Egyptian police (the Medjay) as well as undertaking some private work as the bodyguard to his old friend Nahkt, the Royal Envoy.
There’s no delay in introducing us to the action with this story – there are severed heads in the first line! Early to the scene of the beheadings Rahotep discovers a clue in the mouth of one of the heads – a piece of papyrus bearing a mysterious symbol. This clue suggests that there is more to the murder of the five Nubian boys than meets the eye and despite the lack of interest of his superior, Rahotep feels a duty to investigate the deaths.
There is some background from the previous stories, setting the scene for Rahotep to be whisked away by Nakht to the royal palace and an audience with the Queen of Egypt. This then sets Rahotep on the road out of Egypt to protect Nakht on a secret mission to the enemy territory of the Hittites.
The mission forms the main part of the story, but Rahotep never forgets the mystery of the dead boys and as he travels towards the Hittite Empire he manages to continue to investgate these murders.
Rahotep is a very convincing character, and as with many fiction detectives he has more than his share of problems and flaws. Occasionally I found his behaviour a little frustrating – but you know you’re really involved in a story if you want to shout at the characters!
I did feel the story lacked a little in terms of action. I realise that it’s primarily a detective story however Rahotep is Nakht’s bodyguard, so I thought that this should have been reflected in terms of skirmishes or fights. There were points in the story where the tension built up, but often these didn’t deliver. When there were some action scenes the fighting was quickly dispensed with. Perhaps I’m just more of Simon Scarrow fan.
I enjoyed the historical aspect of the setting, the descriptions of life in Egypt were fascinating, and it was easy to picture the scenes without too much descriptive text to slow down the pace.
Although there are references to the previous stories in the series there’s enough explanation that you could read this as a standalone without any problems.
This is a fascinating glimpse of Ancient Egypt with neatly woven plots which manage a couple of twists and turns before they’re resolved.
Score – 3/5