THE HOUSE OF DEATH by Paul Doherty
A MYSTERY OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2001
Alexander the Great is poised to invade Persia and conquer the world. Yet, at the border between Europe and Asia, he stops, uncertain and apparently afraid. Persian spies and assassins dog his army and evil omens dispirit both Alexander and his men. When childhood friend Telamon arrives, Alexander demands that Telamon track down the spy and identify who is killing the scouts Alexander has found to help him navigate the Asian continent.
Telamon is confronted with impossible mysteries. A young priestess is poisoned, yet Telamon had tasted the wine only seconds before the woman drank. His tent is invaded, yet the ties remain taut, rendering entry impossible. Even when he uncovers what appears to be a clue, it turns out to have other explanations. Indeed, in Alexander’s army, every officer has an agenda. Alexander’s Greek allies hate and fear their Macedonian overlords, the Persians have gold enough to subvert anyone, and Phillip’s recent death (Phillip was Alexander’s father) continues to haunt both Alexander and his reputation.
Paul Doherty (see all BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) makes this critical era in history come alive. Alexander, Ptolemy, and Seleucus are brought to life. Doherty advances a credible explanation to how a man as resourceful and purposeful as Alexander could have stopped and done nothing at the brink of his great adventure. Doherty’s Telamon, perpetually puzzled by everything happening around him, is also a man that the reader comes to care about.
The characters and the history make this fine novel. I would have liked to see more red herrings as Doherty really does not introduce enough credible suspects to leave any doubt about the actual spies behind Alexander’s problems. Given its broad sweep across history, however, this may be too much to ask of a short novel such as THE HOUSE OF DEATH. Doherty writes with a smooth style and I certainly found it hard to put the book down.
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