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Doherty, Paul - 'The Spies of Sobeck'
Hardback: 320 pages (Dec. 2008) Publisher: Headline ISBN: 0755338456

A very wise literary agent (and there are some) once told me that the trick with historical mysteries was to hook the reader early on with the mystery and then give them the history lesson. They know the lesson is coming but they want to be lured, almost fooled, into listening to it.

Paul Doherty goes out of his way to break this rule. His latest novel and the seventh in his 'Ancient Egyptian Mysteries' series, THE SPIES OF SOBECK starts (and ends) with historical notes by the author; there's also a map and a list of characters and their position in the hierarchy of Egypt in 1477BC. So the reader is left in no doubt that there are in for a history lesson and they get one; and it is the positive master class we have come to expect from Paul Doherty.

Egypt, described in all its colours and perfumes, is ruled by a Pharaoh Queen - no, not Cleopatra, she sashayed into history some 1,400 years later - called Hatusu who, like most imperial monarchs, found it relatively easy to obtain an empire, but very difficult to hang on to it. Political jealousies, dubious courtiers, the rebellious province of Nubia, professional thieves, assassins and various religious fanatics all seem to have an early tomb lined up for Hatusu "the Divine Bitch" and a fair amount of blood is spilled on the sand before this thriller (and it is a thriller rather than a 'whodunit?') is resolved. Or is it? A follow-up seems certain.

This is history red in tooth and claw and Doherty has proved, in more than fifty novels over a variety of historical settings, that when he give a history lesson, readers sit up straight and pay attention.

Mike Ripley, England
January 2009

Mike Ripley is the author of the 'Angel' series and writer of a monthly Getting Away With Murder column for Shots Ezine.

More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 8/05/2009 15:29