cover image The Mosaic of Shadows: A Byzantine Mystery

The Mosaic of Shadows: A Byzantine Mystery

Tom Harper, .. St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-33867-1

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. Agent, Jane Conway-Gordon . (June 6)