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    Review of SIX FOR GOLD by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer (see their website)


    Poisoned Pen Press, November 2005

    In plague-infested Constantinople, Justinian's Lord Chamberlain, John the Eunuch, is suspected of murdering a Senator. Exiled to Egypt where, supposedly, sheep are committing suicide by cutting their own throats, John must somehow stay alive--a task made more difficult by the assassin Empress Theodora is certain to have sent after him, and by the insistance by his wife Cornelia, and his servant, Peter, that they accompany him.

    John knows that Justinian always works more than one angle. Suicidal sheep, while interesting, would hardly be enough to motivate the great Roman Emperor to send his trusted servant to Egypt. Something else must have attracted his attention--something so dangerous he couldn't even trust John with what he feared. Yet the Egyptian oasis seems to contain nothing but a tax-evading landlord, a gameplaying priest, superstitious peasants, and a magician whose magic tricks are as old as the Pharaohs. Justinian could have been wrong--but if he was, John is the one who's likely to pay the price.

    Back in Constantinople, John's friend Anatolius investigates the mystery of the murdered Senator. Clearly John didn't do it. Whether John's dodgy son-in-law might have been involved is less clear. But the murder seems to involve the religious schism between the orthodox, championed by Justinian, and the monophysites, championed by Theodora. That the monophysites were dominant in Egypt, and that John was exiled to that province didn't sound like coincidence. Still, what could it mean.

    Authors Mary Reed and Eric Mayer (see more reviews of mysteries by Reed and Mayer) continue their charming John the Eunuch series with a story that takes John far from Constantinople, returning him to Egypt--the land where he and Cornelia first met. Egypt has always been a land of magic and mystery and it certainly is in SIX FOR GOLD--starting with Peter's discovery of the cat-mummy industry and the monkey-headed giant snake. The religious disputes between orthodox and monophysites was a huge part of the history of this time and Reed and Meyer do a good job presenting it in the context of a historical mystery. John's own worship of Mithra, the Persian sun-god, adds richness to the story.

    SIX FOR GOLD is filled with comic touches--I especially like the bumbling but effective Peter, as well as his part in solving the mystery of the suicidal sheep. The mysterious maze in the Egyptian oasis might not be historical, but it should be.

    Fans of historical mystery will definitely want to grab this latest in the John the Eunuch series. I have no hesitation in recommending SIX FOR GOLD.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/05/06

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