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Four For A Boy: A John, the Lord Chamberlain Mystery (John the Lord Chamberlain Book 4) [Kindle Edition]

Mary Reed , Eric Mayer
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
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Book Description

In 525 Constantinople nothing is as it should be. The winter is unnaturally cold, and the palace has fallen under the sway of both the shade of the wife of the dying Emperor Justin and Theodora, the former actress his gravely ill successor Justinian intends to marry. The streets are terrorized alternately by elegantly dressed young thugs who style themselves the Blues and forces under the orders of the City Prefect nicknamed The Gourd, a man notoriously adept at slaughter and magick. Thus, when a wealthy philanthropist is killed in broad daylight in the Great Church, it isn’t entirely surprising that the future ruler Justinian engages an anonymous young slave called John to investigate what many believe could be part of a succession conspiracy. In this series prequel, John the Eunuch takes his first dangerous steps along the path that will lead him to hold office as Lord Chamberlain.

Among the suspects are many whose lives might be touched by an emperor, from senators, churchman, and wealthy businessmen to laborers, beggars, and prostitutes. Before he can track down the murderer, John must first win the respect of Felix, the excubitor reluctantly assisting him, discourage the advances of the romantic but naive Lady Anna, and make peace with his own fate.

"One of the Best Little known series" --Booklist

Editorial Reviews Review

Gang-plagued streets, politicians plotting each other's downfall, poverty and homelessness existing side-by-side with manifest wealth--no, this isn’t modern-day Washington, D.C., but rather 6th-century Constantinople, as portrayed by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer in Four for a Boy. A prequel to their three previous novels featuring John the Eunuch, Lord Chamberlain to Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, this nimble and scrupulously plotted tale finds John still a mercenary-turned-slave in the palace of Justinian's predecessor, Justin I. He hardly seems the right man to take on a "defense of the empire." Yet after a philanthropist is murdered in the city's Great Church, where he’d gone to visit a controversial statue of Christ, John is assigned, along with a German palace guard (and fellow pagan), to ferret out the killer and maybe also to act the role of spy in a web of rivalries involving the current and future emperors, as well as an imperious city prefect--"the Gourd"--with a misshapen head and supposedly magical powers. Not until a marble importer is slain does a solution to these odd crimes emerge.

Reed and Mayer excel at crafting royal intrigues, especially the plot by Justinian’s mendacious lover, Theodora, to wrest control of the former Eastern Roman Empire from Justin, whose senescence has him parlaying at length with his dead wife. They are clever, too, in creating action sequences (such as one in which John tries to "fly" from pursuers on Icarus-like wings) that fit their historical setting. It's only too bad that the authors don’t do more in this prequel to fill in John’s backstory, and that they force him to spend most of his time here in an annoying pique, his violent castration and lowly position frustrating his desire to return the affections of a senator's daughter. --J. Kingston Pierce

From Publishers Weekly

In this captivating prequel set in sixth-century Constantinople, the fourth in Reed and Mayer's well-received historical series (Three for a Letter, etc.), the future emperor Justinian asks a young slave named John the Eunuch to investigate the murder of philanthropist Hypatius, struck down while examining the controversial Christ statue he and three others have given to the city's Great Church. Discounting rumors of a political plot, John undertakes a search for the truth that will lead him from opulent palace to squalid hospice, and to meetings with such memorable characters as the na‹ve Lady Anna and the quirky Avis, who lives in a virtual aviary and is convinced he will fly someday. Written with humor and pathos, this superior historical is sure to please existing fans and send new ones in search of the rest of the series.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 491 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1590580311
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; 1st edition (May 25, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015ACG0Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,754 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful mystery of Byzantine Constantinople August 16, 2003
The aging emperor, Justin, is increasingly infirm and his nephew and heir, Justinian, is sick. As a result, the city of Constantinople is convulsed by doubt and riots. The Blues (one of the racing factions that battled in the streets of the greatest city in the world) rule the streets, suppressed only by the police authorities who have become increasingly violent. When a rich man is murdered, the senators are quick to point the finger at Justinian. Justinian may be sick (he believes he's being poisoned), but he isn't stupid. He asks a slave, John the Eunuch, to help investigate.
What John finds seems to point the finger more directly at Justinian. Because there is a conspiracy at work, and the victim seems to have been involved with the conspirators. Yet John, accompanied by the royal bodyguard, Felix, suspects that they are missing something. That suspicion becomes more deeply seated when John and Felix are nearly killed by professional assassins. Somehow, John has to get to the bottom of the mystery, ensure that the results don't reflect badly on his patron, and prevent riots from destroying the city. It's a lot to ask a slave.
Authors Mary Reed and Eric Mayer write convincingly of Constantinople in one of its most famous and dangerous periods. Christianity is the legal religion, but pagan and Mithraism remain strong (if illegal) forces. Christianity itself is violently divided by clashing beliefs about the nature of Jesus's divinity--a clash that the Emperor must often play a role in healing. In a few years, Justinian will undertake his epic and doomed quest to restore the Roman Empire--but only if he can survive.
Set fifteen years before the earlier novels in this series, FOUR FOR A BOY is both enjoyable and fascinating. Anyone interested in this critical timeframe, or interested in a good historical mystery, will want to read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Byzantine Conspiracies October 28, 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reed and Mayer present a well-researched and fascinating peek at 6th century Constantinople. If you think soccer hooligans are dangerous, imagine them with swords and knives. Supporters of the "Blues" who support one team of chariot racers, terrorize the city and assasinate a well known philanthropist. Rumor start to fly that Justinian, already named succesor to Emporer Justin, is stirring up unrest to hurry the aging Caesar from the throne. John the eunuch and an imperial bodyguard are assigned to investigate by Justinian. Nothing is quite what it seems. Do the police authorities supress or cause the riots? Is Justinian ill or is he being poisoned? Is the father of the woman John tutors a patriot or a traitor? Is Justin demented or is he just pretending to be? Raging against his status of a slave and tormented by the memory of his forced , John is forced to unravel the lies and survive assination attempts. A compelling book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars John the Eunuch's First Case July 15, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the fourth case for John the Eunuch during the reign of Justinian I, following One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, and Three for a Letter. Except for a brief prologue, this one takes place long before the events of the first three books, when John was fairly new as a slave in Constantinople and very bitter about it. He was owned by the emperor (who was still Justinian's uncle Justin at the time) and worked for the Master of the Plate; he was on loan to the senator Opimius to teach his daughter Persian. Then a close friend of Opimius, Hypatius, is murdered in the Great Church (on the site where Justinian would later build the famous Hagia Sophia, but this was its predecessor that burned during the Nike riots), and Justinian commandeers John and Felix, an excubitor (palace guard) originally from Germany, to work with the head of the city guard to find the murderer. It's all very complex and political, but John ultimately solves the case and also uncovers a conspiracy against Justinian, for which he's manumitted. This series isn't as good as most of the other classical-era mysteries I've read (Lindsey Davis, David Wishart, John Maddox Roberts, Steven Saylor - about on a par with Saylor, but not as good as the others), but it's worth buying and keeping.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prequel to the John the Eunuch Mysteries March 7, 2009
This volume jumps back to 525 and relates the beginning of John's career from slave to Lord Chamberlain. I enjoy this series for the unusual historical setting in sixth century Constantinople with rich descriptions of life in the city on the Bosporus. John is teamed with Felix of the Palace guard who slowly begins to appreciate the slave's talents: "At least I know you can handle yourself in a fight." We meet the dying Justin, his successor Justinian, and Theodora who "does not enjoy the notion of Justinian being grateful to anyone except her."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read First - Prequel January 6, 2013
By sharlee
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The books are numbered one to nine, but this book should really be read first. It provides background on Lord John, explains how he became Lord Chamberlain, and introduces other reoccurring characters. Book nine concludes the series with Lord John retiring from his post and leaving Constantinople. After reading Four for a Boy first, the other books go in numerical order.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A second chance: April 25, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I decided to give John a second chance, specially since this book promised to be the prequel to the other books. I liked this one better tjan the first, the main character has more dimensions than in the first book. The solution to the mistery is a little forced but possible. Just might read another one.
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