cover image Out of the Black Land

Out of the Black Land

Kerry Greenwood. Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (478p) ISBN 978-1-4642-0040-3

Australian author Greenwood, having made a name for herself with the lighthearted Phryne Fisher series (Cocaine Blues, etc.), succeeds brilliantly with this gripping thriller set in ancient Egypt. In 1335 B.C.E., the ascension of a new pharaoh, Akhnaten, sends the country into turmoil. The ruler, who holds the heretical religious view that there’s only one god, acts to spread this idea by banning the worship of the traditional deities. Two charismatic figures—Ptah-hotep, plucked from obscurity to become the Great Royal Scribe (who acts “as auditor for the whole of the nation”), and Mutnodjme, Akhnaten’s sister-in-law—display a gift for surviving palace intrigue. The author is especially good at conveying the nitty-gritty details of life at the time. For example, Ptah-hotep is advised to keep an eye out for tax cheating concerning fish and turtles. If not quite in the same class as Nick Drake’s mysteries set in ancient Egypt (Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead, etc.), this is close enough to make historical fiction fans hope that Greenwood isn’t done with this period. (Feb.)