Saturday, May 25, 2013

Out of the Black Land

by Kerry Greenwood.

Ptah-hotep is snatched from the school for scribes to become Great Royal Scribe to the co-regent Pharaoh Akhnamen, not because of any particular merit of his own but because it pleased the prince's whim. Then he has to learn very quickly how to survive the poisonous atmosphere of the royal court, which only grows more dangerous after the king renames himself Akhnaten and prohibits the worship of all other gods besides the Aten, the disc of the sun. The Lady Mutnodjme, half sister of the fabulously beautiful Nefertiti, asks so many questions as a child that she is sent to the Temple of Isis to become a scholar. She returns to a royal court where the name of her goddess must not be mentioned, and the Pharaoh is dangerously uninterested in anything other than his religious reforms.

Although this book says "A Mystery" on the front cover, it's really more of a straight historical novel about the Amarna period of ancient Egypt. Lots of political intrigue, but not much investigation, and though there is a rather shocking confession to murder, no one had been looking for a murderer. So I can recommend the book as a historical novel, but if you're looking for a mystery comparable to Lynda Robinson's wonderful Lord Meren series, this is not it.

If you do read it, by no means should you skip the author's afterword on the state of Egyptology. She rises to majestic levels of snark.

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