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    Review of THE MOSAIC OF SHADOWS by Tom Harper


    Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Minotaur, June 2005 (2003 in the UK)

    After the disaster at Manzikert, the great Byzantine Empire calls for help from the 'barbarian' west. Emperor Alexios Komnenos appeals for mercenaries to help him re-capture his Asian province (modern-day Turkey). Instead, the west responds with the First Crusade. The Crusaders are anxious to confront the Turks who occupy Jerusalem, but they have no interest in helping Alexios regain his lost province. When Alexios demands their oath that any conquests within his former territory be returned to him, they refuse. Political hardball? Perhaps. But when an assassin's bolt nearly kills the Emperor, the Emperor's eunuch hires ex-mercenary and now detective Demetrios Askiates to uncover the truth.

    Pieces of the truth are easy enough to discover. The bolt could only have been fired from a western crossbow, the kind the Franks outside the city carry. And a monk who seems to follow the western rites is clearly responsible. But the eunuch knows that a foreign monk cannot be the center of the plot. Some 'Roman' must be involved--one with enough power that he would be in a position to have himself proclaimed Emperor if the current Emperor falls.

    Author Tom Harper does a fine job describing the city of Constantinople under siege, the Greek intrigues that so frustrated the western Crusaders, and the various groups of mercenaries who defended the Empire while the mob often controlled its fate. Demetrios Askiates makes an intriguing sleuth, with his concern for his daughters and his ambivalent feelings toward the beautiful doctor, Anna. We can, perhaps, forgive 26-year-old author Harper for believing that a man in his mid-thirties is over the hill and unable to carry weapons effectively.

    Fans of historical mystery will want to pick up MOSAIC OF SHADOWS--and hope that we soon see more by Tom Harper.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 12/02/05

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