The Mosaic of Shadows by Tom Harper
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur (May 12, 2005)
Average Customer Review on Amazon: 4.5 stars
Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. British author Harper effortlessly draws the reader into the court intrigues and conspiracies of 11th-century Byzantium in his outstanding debut. Former bounty hunter and bodyguard Demetrios the Apokalyptor (who will remind many of Steven Saylor’s ancient Roman sleuth, Gordianus the Finder) is summoned to Emperor Alexios’s palace after a mysterious assassin narrowly misses killing the ruler with an arrowlike weapon that managed to pierce a guard’s armor. The emperor’s chamberlain, Krysaphios, hires Demetrios to identify the murderer, as well as the forces behind him. The quest is imbued with greater urgency as the residents of the empire’s capital nervously anticipate the arrival of a large barbarian army, ostensible allies who may be connected with the attempted regicide. Nicely balancing action and deduction, Harper creates both a credible hero and supporting characters. While the final plot twist is plausible, there may not be enough shock value for veteran whodunit readers. But fans of well-written, meticulously researched historicals should embrace this promising new talent.
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Editorial Review from Booklist:
The title’s shadowy mosaic is an apt metaphor for the myriad puzzle pieces Demetrios Askiates must fit together to capture a would-be assassin and prevent a disastrous war in this historical thriller set in eleventh-century Constantinople. When a sniper attempts to fell Emperor Alexios, the court eunuch, Krysaphios, engages Askiates’ sleuthing talents to uncover the twisted plot that would unseat a king and unsettle the eastern Roman Empire with an ensuing power shift. As he tackles the long list of those who would benefit from the emperor’s demise, Demetrios must also skirt the overzealous and interfering Varangians and test his newfound diplomatic skills with an army of Crusaders camped outside the city walls. In this series opener, the scene is set with exquisite detail–royal palaces dripping with gold and jewels, mincing courtiers vying for power, back alleys paved in poverty and the harsh realities of Byzantine life. Harper introduces likable characters whose humorous foibles keep the story alive, and he hints at future romance and intrigue–all of which bodes well for Demetrios’ career as a series sleuth. Jennifer Baker
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