Okay, onto recent reads. I finished up ONE FOR SORROW by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, and loved it! And I'm just a novice at historical mysteries, my first dip into the waters being Dianne Day's wonderful THE STRANGE FILES OF FREMONT JONES. Anyhow, John the Eunuch is a marvelous character, no less noble (or perhaps moreso) despite his lack of, uh, family jewels. The research that obviously went into SORROW is apparent, but facts, settings and people are seamlessly blended into the storyline. If you're a fan of history and mystery, do NOT miss this one, guys. If you're like me and hesitant to read historical mysteries but think you might want to try one, get SORROW. My God, the gorgeous red cover alone is worth the price and the writing won't let you down either!
--Susan McBride, The Charlotte Austin Review
"Byzantium, the heart of the Roman Empire in the 6th century, contains a rich mixture of old gods, deadly rituals and Christian doctrine. Justinian rules the land as a Christian Emperor, yet The Lord Chamberlain, one of the most honored in his court, holds fast the traditions of Mithra, an ancient religion that honors the great bull god. The Lord Chamberlain, also known as John the Eunuch, is a man of loyalty, to his Caesar and to his faith. When his friend is murdered, the quest to discover his killer leads John down a trail full of twists and turns that challenge him to examine his beliefs, his past and even his deepest fears.
One for Sorrow captures the horror of the mutilation of Johns body as well as the maiming of his soul. When he once again faces the woman he loved long ago, and the daughter he never knew he had, John also has to face his own deeply buried desires. At the same time, he cannot forget that a murderer is walking the streets of Byzantium. Who is the killer? Who will be next? And what part does a peculiar ancient soothsayer play in the strange events that swirl around John like a troubled sea of confusion and death?
The authors weave an intricate tapestry of characters and plot along with a fascinating look into the day to day life of the Byzantine Empire. There is even a mysterious knight who claims to have been dispatched from King Arthur to search for the Holy Grail of Christ, making this a mesmerizing mix of fact and fantasy that serves to make the story even more absorbing.
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer originally introduced John the Eunuch through several short stories, and have now brought him out as a full-time ancient sleuth. One for Sorrow is a novel that is hard to put down. The authors are superb artists who paint a well-presented mystery with the colors of a civilization that seemed shrouded in history until viewed on their life-like canvas.
I whole-heartedly recommend this novel for any mystery fan. A second novel Two for Joy is set to be released by Poisoned Pen Press in October 2000, with the paperback edition of One For Sorrow. I can hardly wait.
Nancy Mehl, © 2000 The Charlotte Austin Review "
"In Byzantium, Lord Chamberlain John the Eunuch looks forward to the end of the current festivities. Since he is in charge of the events, John publicly attends as many as possible. Though his stomach and head reel from bad food, rank animal odor, and sweat, John shows up at the Hippodrome with several friends to watch a lithe woman leap onto a bull. John realizes the performer is his former lover from a time before his current condition.
Distracted John forgets to talk with his colleague Leukos the Keeper of the Plate. The next day, John finds Leukos murdered by a dagger near the Inn of the Centaurs. John makes inquiries and realizes several obvious suspects exist. A King Arthur knight from England and fellow worshiper of the bull God of Mithra, Thomas admits having met with Leukos only yesterday. Leukos recently visited the popular soothsayer Ahasuetus of Antioch. Then there is Kaloethes and his wife, greedy owners of the inn where Leukos died. However, as he continues to investigate the killing, John also seeks to find his former love.
One For Sorrow is a historical mystery that should excite fans of the sub-genre. Mary Reed & Eric Mayer provides readers an incredible and enlightening look into the sixth century reign of Emperor Justinian. John is a great protagonist whose hard past continually surfaces in the present. The support cast augments the rich story line with even more depth so that the audience can feel even more of the era without slowing down the interesting who-done-it. Readers will clearly want more tales starring John and his cohorts who make history and mystery fun.
Harriet Klausner, Copyright© 1999 BookBrowser. All rights reserved"
"By nature, the historical mystery genre offers a wealth of opportunity for creative settings and characters. From Steven Saylor we have Gordianus the Finder, a clever detective in the ancient Rome of Pompey and Crassus. From Lynda S. Robinson, we have Lord Meren, the Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. And now, joining these ancient sleuths we have John the Eunuch, the Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian in sixth century Byzantium. Previously featured in short stories, authors Mary Reed and Eric Mayer have released their first novel, One for Sorrow, featuring this unusual and intriguing character.
John is a middle-aged man who holds an important position in Justinian's Christian court; he is sort of like today's Chief of Staff. While Christianity has overtaken much of the empire, John is still a quietly practicing Mithraic. John is not a eunuch by choice; in fact, he still longs for his lover from years ago. When he tells his sad tale to a new friend, it is both horrifying and compelling. Even though he might seem to have lost some of his manliness, John is a trusted and wise figure under the emperor, and is portrayed here as fully able to protect and defend.
The plot of One for Sorrow revolves around an unexplained murder. One of John's closest friends, Leukos, Keeper of the Plate (think treasury official) has been killed in a dirty alleyway. Could someone have murdered him for a precious religious relic? (Saints' bones and chalices seem to be everywhere.) A newcomer from Bretania seems to believe so.
Thomas, a knight from the court of King Arthur has journeyed to Constantinople to search for the Holy Grail. He is one of the last people to have spoken with Leukos before his death. John seems to trust the hearty soldier, but he appears too often in John's path for it to be coincidence. Then there is the ancient soothsayer Ahasuerus, who has been making a name for himself reading fortunes. Even the Empress Theodora may have been one of his clients. Why would Leukos, a professed and seemingly devout Christian, be visiting this fortuneteller at the run-down Inn of the Centaurs? And what about the brothel near the Inn? Was Leukos visiting a woman before he was murdered?
As John delves further into Leukos' final days, the path seems to split in many directions. Why does the Patriarch Epiphanios seem to be interfering in the investigation? And why does the murder of a young prostitute at the brothel seem to be tied in to the first murder as well?
For readers who enjoy historical fiction written by knowledgeable authors, One for Sorrow won't disappoint. In fact, the glossary at the back of the book will be essential for many of us who missed some classes in ancient history. For example, the unusual holy men called stylites play a role in this tale. And typical expressions from this period such as Owls to Athens are also explained in this glossary.
Even better, Reed and Mayer are able to create an interesting cast of characters and well-crafted plot. People like the stylites, the Madam, and palace servants are believably drawn and developed. And of course the bull leapers (women from John's past) are a fascinating and unique addition, and also add to John's character development. (Unfortunately, they disappear rather abruptly, one of the novel's weak points.) Certain events also help to flesh the story out, such as an ancient Mithraic ceremony in which John's friend Anatolius is initiated into a higher rank of the ancient religion.
In the end, most readers will come away from One for Sorrow finding they enjoy the company of a clever eunuch. As the authors plan to continue John's stories, we can look forward to spending more time with an interesting new addition to the historical mystery world -- John the Eunuch.
--Martha Moore, The Mystery Reader, 11/8/99"