Lynda S. Robinson

This is the final book in the Lord Meren –series set in the Ancient Egypt.

The Eyes and Ears of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, Lord Meren, is more determined than ever to find the man who killed Queen Nefertiti. He has narrowed down his suspects to two men. Unfortunately, these men are so powerful that arresting them and questioning them might disturb the fragile peace that the young Pharaoh has managed to forge. So, Meren has to continue his investigations in secret.

One of his perhaps best leads in an old, addle-brained woman Satet. She was the sister of Neferitit’s cook. The cook and her husband have both died and Meren suspect that they have been murdered. Therefore, he took Satet into his own household both for her safety and so that he can better question her. She managed to remember the name of the leader of Nefertiti’s bodyguard and where the man currently lives. Unfortunately, shortly after telling that information Satet is also murdered.

With no other real leads, Meren plans to sail to Syene where the soldier lives. However, before he leaves, he meets an old friend: Anath. Anath is a rarity: a female spy. She grew in Akhenaten’s palace and the vizier Ay trained her to become a spy for the pharaoh. She has lived many years in Babylon undercover but has now been recalled. Meren and Anath reconnect quickly and Meren takes her with him to the voyage. She persuades him to stop in the old capital to see some letters that might provide a clue.

When Meren leaves, his son Kysen continues to pursue the case carefully. He meets with one of the suspects and invites him to dinner. Meanwhile Meren’s daughter Bener has also decided to help: she tries to befriend another suspect’s wife and ends up flirting with a suspect’s son. Kysen is not happy about that at all.

Slayer of Gods is more focused on intrigue than the previous books. It’s also a bit slower in pace than the previous books which is, of course, understandable since it’s tying up the threads from the previous books. There are also a few instances of the Pharaoh interfering in matters which feels a bit too much like deux ex machina.

Meren himself gets more and more irritable and short tempered which is, again, understandable when he’s trying to solve a murder that happened eleven years ago and he’s also trying to deal with powerful people without getting himself or his family killed.

Anath is an interesting new character and Bener continues to be as headstrong as before.

All in all, a good conclusion to the series.

The fifth and the second to last in the historical mystery series about Lord Meren.

(There are alternate ways of writing the Egyptian names. I use the ones Robinson has used.)

This book has quite a different structure from the previous books in the series. The book starts with Nefertiti as a 12-year old girl who lives among the royalty but isn’t yet one of them. Then we see the murder of menagerie guard Bakht whom a mysterious figure stabs and throws to the baboon cage. However, poor Bakht’s murder gets very little attention because Meren is dealing with a lot of other things.

About one third of the chapters focus on Nefertiti. She is shown first as young girl during the reign of Akhenaten’s father Amunhotep III and later as a young chief wife to Akhenaten. Her father Ay and Ay’s sister the Queen Tiye choose Nefertiti as Akhenaten’s wife because they believe the she can guide him away from his odd religious thoughts. Nefertiti is, of course, rather shocked and even a bit dismayed by this decision but she doesn’t have a choice. At the age of twelve she has to leave behind her childhood and start to train being a wife and a queen for a man who everyone thinks as peculiar and sickly. We get short chapters of the Queen life; the way that Amunhotep guided her and then put his trust in her. Her loving relationship with her six daughters despite the disappointment that none of them were boys. The way that she tries to moderate Akhenaten’s religious fanatism and help the common people. Her life doesn’t seem to be happy even though outwardly she has everything she wants. Akhenaten concentrates more and more with communing with his god and leaves the governing to Nefertiti and Ay.

However, most of the chapters concentrate of Lord Meren and his search for Nefertiti’s murderer. Everyone thought that Nefertiti died of the plague which killed four of her daughters. But in a previous book Meren found out that she was in fact poisoned. He even found out who did the deed but not who was behind it all. Also, he has spoken to some of Nefertiti’s former servants and they have died soon afterwards. Previously, he found out the names of three men who were powerful enough and arrogant enough to have the Queen of Egypt killed. Now, Meren is pursuing them to see what he can find out about them. He starts by arranging a meeting with one of them, the merchant, and later meets the second who is a high ranking soldier. However, before he can do much more it becomes obvious that someone is trying to frame Meren as a traitor.

Once again, I rather enjoyed the alternating chapters and the different structure. However, a reader who is looking for a straight forward murder mystery is going to be disappointed. The chapters with Nefertiti don’t really contribute to the mystery story. Instead they create atmosphere, setting, and characters (three things that I love to bits). In fact, they could have been omitted and the mystery story would have been more coherent.

Meren himself is dealing with a guilt ridden younger daughter and the middle daughter who is too smart for her own good (in the Egyptian culture), and trying to protect his family. He doesn’t even confide to the young pharaoh because he doesn’t have evidence and also he wants to spare the youngster’s feelings. Even though here Akhenaten and Tutankhamun are brothers, there is so much age difference between them that Nefertiti was like a mother to Tutankhamun. Meren grows increasingly suspicious, grumpy, and frustrated but he also has to bear the price for his own distrust in the people close to him.

A lot of the things here, and especially the characters, are conjecture from rather sparse historical records. I have no problem with any of the conjectures here and of course, the book was written in 1998. Even though I enjoyed the chapters focusing on Nefertiti, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with them. Akhenaten wasn’t monogamous even though a casual reader would have gotten that impression from the story. In fact, just like other pharaohs he had many wives and could appoint any of them as the Great Royal Wife. However, none of the other wives are even mentioned in the book even though I would have thought that there would have been fierce competition among them for the position of the chief wife, especially since Nefertiti had no sons. But I guess that would have needed its own book. After all, the storyline here focused on the abrupt changing of religion.

Another very good installment in the series if you like the Egyptian setting and atmosphere.

This fourth Lord Meren historical mystery has a little bit different structure than the previous books. While before the plot has centered around solving the main mystery, this time there is more emphasize on court intrigue and there’s also a continuous plotline from the previous book. The latter isn’t resolved in this book either.

Someone, or something, is killing people in Memphis in a gruesome way: digging out the heart and leaving a feather in its place. The first victim was a peasant man and the second a tavern woman. However, the chief of Memphis’ watchmen, Sokar, is too busy with much more pressing matters to even report the deaths. He considers the victims to be of no importance and therefore the crimes against them to also be of no importance.

Meanwhile, lord Meren, the Eyes and Ears of the fourteen-years-old pharaoh Tutankhamun, is brooding over the facts he found out a few weeks earlier. Someone, or more likely a group of powerful people, murdered Nefertiti who was Chief Queen to the previous pharaoh Akhenaten. These people are likely still in power and don’t want Meren to start digging into the affair. However, both Meren’s internal sense of justice and his guilt over “letting” Akhenaten to be killed, are urging him to bring the Queen’s killers to justice. So, he continues to slowly and carefully find the people who were closest to the Queen; her most intimate servants. Unfortunately, some of them have moved and others have died.

Meren is even more aggravated when the pharaoh commands him to get to know the newest young noble who is making waves in Memphis: lord Reshep. Instantly, Meren despises the self-important and arrogant young man who seems to think that he is the equal of lord Meren himself. Much to Meren’s disgust his youngest daughter, Isis, is instantly infatuated with the young lord.

An arrogant Hittite emissary has also come to Memphis and Meren is almost certain that he wants to provoke a war between Egypt and the Hittites. However, shortly after seeing the pharaoh, the emissary is murdered. His heart has been removed and a feather left in its place. Meren is, of course, in charge of the investigation which must produce the killer quickly before the hot-blooded Hittites leave and take with them a message of war to the Hittite king. Meanwhile, the people of Memphis are afraid that Ammut, the Eater of Souls, has come on Earth and is killing the bad people even before their heart can be weighted against the feather of Maat.

Robinson brings here a somewhat larger cast of characters than previously and the book is better for it. After the events in the previous book lord Meren has brought his two daughters back from the countryside where they have been staying for some months. Now he has the dubious joy of being father to two head-strong, teenaged girls. Even though people during the Ancient times didn’t have the concept of being teenaged, they still went through the stage of starting to cope with adult responsibilities and also the awaking sexual desires. Meren isn’t happy about that at all. His eldest daughter Bener is a practical and calm girl while her sister Isis is obsessed with her looks and is also quite self-centered. However, Bener is also intelligent and curious and wants to be included in Meren’s police business even though that is not appropriate for a woman.

There’s also the chief of the watchmen Sokat who only thinks of what he can gain for himself and Tcha, a thief who tries his best to not become the Ammut’s next victim by getting every available amulet and even smearing himself with honey. There’s Ese, a woman who has managed to rise into some wealth and independence in a world ruled by men and there are also Greek pirates.

This time we also get short point-of-view flashes from the Eater of Souls and there’s also brief narrations from another character who was introduced quite late in the story. All of these combine to make a change to Robinson’s style and I think it has only improved.

My only complaint is the choice of the main threat. In Ancient Egyptian lore Ammut is the one who eats the hearts of the evil doers. In essence she is actually a good goddess who protects the innocent from the evil ones. So, I was a bit puzzled as to why so many people were then deathly afraid of being killed by her. Would the medieval Christians have been afraid if they thought that archangel Michael was walking among them and killing evildoers? (I know, that’s actually a bad analogy.) Then again the first two victims weren’t that evil by society’s standards.

But an enjoyable tale and I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

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.

This is the second book of the adventures of Lord Meren and his adopted son Kysen set in the reign of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Unas, a humble priest of Amun is late one evening and he overhears two men plotting terrible things in the temple. Frightened, he tries to hide in a storage room but manages to find bowls which frighten him even more. In his fear, he breaks one of the bowls and takes the shards with him. In his house he burns the shards much to his wife’s consternation. He tries to talk with Lord Meren who is the Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh but his courage fails and he flees. Then he is pushed down from the high, new statue of Pharaoh.

Unas’ supervisor priest wants to just keep the matter quiet but the head carpenter takes the matter forward and it reaches Lord Meren. Because Pharaoh’s new statue is also a political statement against the growing power of the priests, Meren sends his son to investigate.

Kysen finds out that the priest had been behaving a bit oddly a few days before his death but can’t find any evidence that it’s a murder. But when a scribe is killed by no fewer than five cobras which have been left in his satchel, Kysen and Meren have to investigate. This angers the high priests of Amun who have just started to recover from the reign of the infamous Pharaoh Akhenaten who had displaced all of Egypt’s traditional gods in favor of the sun god Aten. Meren must proceed with caution so that he wouldn’t tip the precarious balance of power between the 14-year old Pharaoh and the priests. The matter isn’t made easier by Meren’s cousin Ebana who blames Meren for the death of his family at the hands of Akhenaten. Ebana is one of the high priests of Amun.

Meanwhile a group of Tutankhamun’s oldest friends returns to the palace from a diplomatic mission. They seem to be content and happy men but under the surface many of them bear a grudge towards someone in the royal family. Some of them are Tutankhamun’s half brothers and soon there are rumors that the boy is too young to rule.

I liked Robinson’s second book even more than the first. This book has more characters but they are also more entertaining. I enjoyed especially the easy camaraderie between the group of young men and the both sides of Tutankhamun: the teenager and the ruler.

This book had more political elements than the previous one, too.

The main characters in this book are a father and son investigative team. Lord Meren is Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Eyes and Ears, and as such the chief investigator. Lord Meren’s adoptive son Kysen works as his partner. They have good relationship both during work and outside of it.

The Place of Anubis is the place where the bodies of the deceased are prepared for mummification and so it’s a holy place. A group of priests and workmen find that someone has left a murdered body there, and quite possibly committed a murder there, and so desecrated the place. The chief priests are of course leaning on the 14-years old Pharaoh to quickly find the murderer and execute him.

Lord Meren and his son are commanded to find the murderer and they have a tight schedule. They search the Place of Anubis without finding anything of note. One of the workers there recognized the body: he’s Hormin, a scribe whom everyone seems to have hated. Lord Meren concentrates on Hormin’s family: his two sons, wife, and a concubine. The concubine is notorious for her greed and for the number of men she entertains. Hormin’s long-suffering wife hates the concubine but loves her family. Hormin’s eldest son isn’t too quick witted and Hormin has always scorned him because of it. The son, Imsety, is however a good at supervising farms and wanted his father to sell his farm to him. Hormin refused and everyone thinks he didi it just out of spite. Hormin’s second son, Djaper, is also a scribe and very intelligent and ambitious which his father didn’t approve of either. Many think that Djaper could have been promoted over Hormin. Then there are of course the other scribes who didn’t like Hormin’s acidic nature at all. At the same time, there is intrigue brewing in the court.

The concubine is from the village of the tomb-makers who seem to know quite a bit about Hormin and his household. Meren sends his son, Kysen, there undercover as his servant. Kysen had a difficult childhood before Meren adopted him: Kysen’s biological father beat him and finally sold him into slavery. And he and his family live and work in the tomb-makers village so Kysen has to both hunt a murderer and confront his family.

This is quite an impressive first novel and has character development, historical detail, and a mystery. Meren is a complex character: Tuthankhamun’s father tried to convert him forcibly to the cult of the one god and Meren still bears the scars from that, both mental and physical. Yet he’s a loving father to his three daughters and adopted son, and also a father figure to the young Pharaoh.

Kysen is also a scarred character. In addition to his difficult childhood he has a barely civil relationship with his former wife. He also raises their son. Yet he enjoys his work, at least when it doesn’t involve confronting his biological family.

The book is fast-paced but doesn’t feel rushed. Robinson’s style is quite sparse; she doesn’t much describe or explain things. However, I got the impression that she knows the culture very well and the characters feel very historical to me.