Summary and book reviews of Year of The Hyenas by Brad Geagley

Year of The Hyenas

By Brad Geagley

Year of The Hyenas
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2005,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2008,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

Year of the Hyenas is a brilliant, original, and unique murder mystery, set in ancient Egypt at the height of that kingdom's glory and power. It is at once a strikingly insightful portrait of a mysterious, complex, and sophisticated society, reminiscent of Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings in its wonderful detail and feel for the past, and a fast-paced detective story that reads like the best of twenty-first-century thrillers.

From the oldest known court transcripts in history, Egyptologists have long known about the mysterious death of Ramses III, involving intrigue, ambition, greed, and crimes of passion on a huge, though hidden, scale. In Year of the Hyenas, Brad Geagley takes this event -- a struggle that nearly brought ancient Egypt to its knees -- as the backdrop for a story that is every bit as captivating as the distant civilization it resurrects.

At the heart of the novel is Semerket, the so-called Clerk of Investigations and Secrets, a detective half-paralyzed by problems of his own, with a reputation for heavy drinking and tactless behavior toward the great, the powerful, and the holy, a kind of Sam Spade of the ancient world, deeply (and dangerously) addicted to the truth. Hard-bitten, deeply flawed, he is retained by the authorities to investigate what is considered an insignificant murder of an elderly, insignificant Theban priestess. They fail to inform him, however, that they don't expect him to solve the case. In fact, they don't want him to.

But Semerket is not so easily fooled, and this is hardly an "insignificant" murder. As he delves deeper for the elusive truth, he uncovers a web of corruption so vast that it threatens the life of the last great Pharaoh, Ramses III, and the stability of the kingdom. Even worse, uncovering the conspiracy means more than just putting his own life on the line -- for, unbeknownst to Semerket, his adored ex-wife Naia has fallen afoul of those who would bring down the reign of Ramses, and he soon finds himself having to choose between saving her and saving Egypt....

Merging historical fact and speculation with a nail-biting crime story that could be taking place in the present, Year of the Hyenas is a riveting and remarkable achievement.

Chapter 1: The Gods Will Not Wait

Hetephras limped from her pallet to the door of her house like an old arthritic monkey. She pulled aside the linen curtain and squinted to the east. Scents of the unfurling day met her nostrils. Sour emmer wheat from the temple fields. The subtler aroma of new-cut barley. Distant Nile water, brown-rich and brackish. And even at this early hour, someone fried onions for the Osiris Feast.

The old priestess's eyes were almost entirely opaque now. Though a physician had offered to restore her sight with his needle treatment, Hetephras was content to view the world through the tawny clouds with which the gods had afflicted her; in exchange they had endowed her other senses with greater clarity. Out of timeworn habit she raised her head again to the east, and for a moment imagined that she saw the beacon fires burning in Amun's Great Temple far across the river. But the curtains fell across her sight again, as they always did, and the flames...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Interesting protagonist, vivid evocation of the mean streets of Thebes, but a prose style that can be jarring: "Semerket could hear the lioness's fangs in the queen's voice."

Booklist - David Pitt

Some mysteries set in ancient Egypt are pedantic, fact-intensive tomes. This one, a first novel, avoids that trap. It's a solid, fast-paced mystery that's never overwhelmed by the author's research.

Library Journal

Starred review. Historically motivated plot and authentic, rich cultural detail will endear this first novel/series start to fans of historicals.

Author Blurb Steve Hamilton, author of Ice Run and Blood Is the Sky
Brad Geagley's mean streets are the stone paths of ancient Egypt, his hard-boiled detective a troubled investigator working for the Pharaoh's court. Geagley makes it all come alive in Year of the Hyenas, as compelling a novel as I've read all year."

Author Blurb Lynda S. Robinson, author of the Lord Meren Mysteries Series
I greatly enjoyed Year of the Hyenas. Brad Geagley writes about ancient Egypt as if he'd lived there. Even readers unfamiliar with the time period will enjoy this intriguing mystery.

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