The Lord Hani Mysteries, Book 1
When Hani, an Egyptian diplomat under Akhenaten, is sent to investigate the murder of a useful bandit leader in Syria, he encounters corruption, tangled relationships, and yet more murder. His investigation is complicated by the new king’s religious reforms, which have struck Hani’s own family to the core. Hani’s mission is to amass enough evidence for his su-periors to prosecute the wrongdoers despite the king’s protection—but not just every superior can be trusted. And maybe not even the king! Winner of the 2020 Geoffrey Chaucer Award for historical fiction before 1750.
They reached the west bank, stepping across the luminous reflection of the shore and onto the real-ity. The city of the dead stretched before them, little pyramid-roofed whitewashed shrines dotting the bleak yellow terrain. The tombs of kings and nobles were hidden in the cliffs still farther west. Hani saw southward of them the gigantic statues of Neb-ma’at-ra that marked the entrance to the late king’s mortuary temple. At least Nefer-khepru-ra hadn’t stopped the worship there.
Together, the two men crossed the barren rock-strewn path that scarred the desert and penetrated deeper into the Red Land, heading toward the cliffs—the Mountains of the West, the land of the dead.
“It’s peaceful here,” Hani murmured. There was no sound except the cicadas, the distant twitter of a bird, and the crunch of their footsteps on the gravel. Hardly a breath of wind stirred, yet there was a mellow coolness to the early-morning air.
“The neighbors don’t make much noise,” Mery-ra agreed with a grin.
Hani slowed to accommodate his father’s pace. “No, I mean, it isn’t gloomy. All these people we’ve loved—people who made us—are happy in the Field of Reeds. The Lady of the West is present, motherly and comforting. Don’t you feel it?”
Mery-ra punched his son’s arm. “You get this streak from your mother’s side of the family, my boy. But now that you mention it, that’s true. Mostly, I’m thinking about how good it is to be nearly finished with our tomb. One more thing out of the way. At my age, that’s a source of great consolation.”
Hani saw the familiar trail fork off to the left, and he took his father’s arm as they struggled over the rougher ground. Ahead, against a distinctive outcropping of the cliffs, stood the whitewashed little facade of their family house of eternity. A ladder and various bits of artists’ scaffolding lay on the ground. The workmen were not yet finished with the decoration inside. No doubt, they came when they were able to get away from the building of the new capital.
“You know,” said Hani, “we ought to set a guard here as long as the tomb is open. Anybody could wander in.”
“But there’s nothing to steal yet. It’s more likely that some fox would find her way inside and whelp her pups.”
Hani crouched and took up the fire drill that lay just inside the door. After a moment, he had a light going. Mery-ra handed him one of the torches that lay nearby. The old man sniffed. “Smells like these have been used recently. Good. The artists must have been at work.”
The torch made a brave little puddle of light as the men entered the darkness of the ante-chamber. Hani touched the torch to others bracketed on the walls, and all at once, the room glowed, bright with freshly painted colors and gay scenes of daily life. Statues of Mery-ra, Pipi, and Hani with their wives sat on plinths against the wall, just under life-size and colored like real people with russet skin, white clothing, and black wigs. Their smiling faces gazed out across the heads of their visitors.
Mery-ra laughed delightedly. “I haven’t been so slim for forty years! They’ve done a nice job with the painting. That’s your mother to perfection, isn’t it?” He approached the wall to admire the im-ages of his family enjoying the ideal life of the Field of Reeds. Suddenly, he turned to Hani, his eyes wide with shock.
About the Author
N.L. Holmes is the pen name of a professional archaeologist who received her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. She has excavated in Greece and in Israel and taught ancient history and humanities at the university level for many years. She has always had a passion for books, and in childhood, she and her cousin (also a writer today) used to write stories for fun.
Facebook: https://www.facebook/nlholmesbooks LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/n-l-holmes/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/N-L-Holmes/e/B0858H3K7S
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