This is the third book in the historical mystery series about Lord Meren, the Eyes and Ears of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen, and his adopted son Kysen. This time the pair gets mixed up with the worst kind of people: their family.
After the events in the last book, Meren is on his way back to his sister’s house far from the court. He is looking for some peace and quiet with his two daughters and his sister. Unfortunately for Meren, his sister Idut has decided to hold a Feast of Rejoicing in his honor and she has invited the whole family to it. Meren is furious because his trip turns out not to be just a vacation but a secret mission from the Pharaoh; he is transporting the bodies of Tutankhamen’s heretic brother Akhenaten and his wife for a new burial. Their bodies and tombs were desecrated and the Pharaoh doesn’t want that to be public knowledge. And to make matters worse, the Pharaoh himself decides to pay a visit in secret.
The royal bodies are left in a nearby haunted temple with guards while Meren tries his best to tolerate his family and persuade the Pharaoh to return. Meren’s family is quite a handful: most of them want desperately Meren to remarry and sire a son, since they despise the common-born Kysen. Meren’s great-aunt Cherit still treats him like an ignorant boy and his aunt Nebetta and uncle Hub blame him for the death of their son Djet who was Meren’s best friend when they were growing up. Meren’s brother Ra also shows up. Ra has always been jealous of Meren’s success and is now a drunkard. Meren’s cousin Sennefer is married to the flirtatious Anhai and there’s a rumor that they might get a divorce. Meren’s sister is being courted by a man Meren loathes. Even Meren’s normally gentle daughters bring him some grief: they’ve grown up! And the older of them, Bener, is rumored to have something going on with an assistant scribe.
If this isn’t enough, Anhai if found dead in a granary. Surrounded by people who remember him as a little boy instead of a high noble, Meren might be facing the hardest case of his life and Kysen seems to be his only real ally.
Once again Robinson manages to capture the feel of ancient Egypt very well. The only thing that troubled me was the way that Meren was constantly putting down his daughters and women in general. To him, an intelligent woman is a liability or maybe a threat. This can, of course, be just a sign of the way women were treated at the time.
Otherwise, I enjoyed seeing Meren’s dysfunctional family which has only been hinted of earlier in the series. The mystery was cleverly done and I hope the consequences will be dealt with in the coming books, but still the ending felt a little bit too easy after many of the juicy speculations.