The first in the Egyptian Mysteries series where the main character is the former scribe Huy.
Page count: 176
Publication year: 1991
Huy is on the verge of disaster. He supported Akhenaten with his whole heart, and he was one of the first people to move to the pharaoh’s new city Akhetaten believing that the pharaoh will bring about a new era of light and justice. Huy was an apprentice scribe in his court.
However, Akhenaten and his follower Smenkhkare are both dead, and the next rulers are bringing back the old ways and the old gods. Some of the former scribes are forbidden to continue in their job. Huy is one of them. He thinks that it’s because he has always curious and so some people saw him as a troublemaker. But the fact is that at 29 years old Huy is a scribe who can’t work as a scribe. His wife divorced him some years back and took their son with her when she moved. Huy has no idea what to do. He sits in his small house in Akhetaten and is slowly starving.
Then a childhood friend appears and encourages Huy to move to the Southern Capital and continue with his life. Amotju has his own reasons: he’s convinced that his rival Rekhmire is trying to kill him and he wants Huy to prove it. Huy is at first reluctant to interfere but has no choice.
Amotju is a wealthy merchant who owns several ships. He was neutral during Akehanten’s reign and is prospering even under the new order. He has a wife, grown children, and concubines. He has also a mistress whom he’s in love with. His mistress Mutnefert has another man who is the high priest Rekhmire. In fact, the widow Mutnefert was Rekhmire’s official mistress before she met Amotju and Munefert needs Rekhmire’s influence to give her, too, some measure of social power. Amotju and Rekhmire appear to be rivals in business as well.
Because Huy is going to be Amotjus’s secret agent, so to speak, they can’t be seen together. So, Amotju arranges Huy to stay with Amotju’s unmarried sister Aset. Aset remembers Huy fondly from the past and Huy is also attracted to her.
Huy sets about to find clues about Rekhmire’s involvement. Instead, he stumbles into a tomb robbery, theft, and even murder. Also, unfortunately for Huy, the Egyptian police force doesn’t like that he’s nosing around their turf.
The setting is done very well. There’s an atmosphere of uneasiness and mild confusion when the people are settling back into their fathers’ ways, and are trying to get any advantage they can get. The book is set into the days between Smenkhkare’s death and before Tutankhmun is declared official king. The new king is just nine years old, so there’ also the question of who are going to be the real rulers.
The Egyptian weather here is very hot and dry. It was a bit amusing when Huy finds cool places a comfort; here it’s -18 Celsius now outside.
Huy is a very convincing character. At first he find the old gods and beliefs contemptible. However, he does care what happens to his Ka and Ba after death, and he worries about his own tomb. If he dies when he’s poor, he will end up in a group tomb without much food for the afterlife.
He’s also curious about many things but not foolhardy. He knows that he has no official position at all, so he must be careful in his investigation. He also care a lot about the people close to him and longs to see his son.
Amotju has currently a marriage of convenience with his wife. She’ a good businesswoman and a housekeeper and has also ambitions she can only realize through her husband. Meanwhile Amotju is falling more and more in love his secret mistress. Huy doesn’t want to come between the spouses.
Even though Amotju is supposed to be rich, we don’t see many servants at his place. Also, we don’t see his children at all. In fact, Aset is the one who orders her servants to do things.
Huy is the main point-of-view character but Amotju, Rekhmire, Mutnefert, and a couple of others are also POV characters briefly.
The plot moves somewhat slow especially at first, but it fits the setting and the characters. While the main plot is tied up at the end, the tensions between various characters are left wide open.
This is an interesting contrast to the Lord Meren series where Tutankhamun is already an established king even though he’s still young.