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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Furies: A Noir Mystery in Roman Alexandria

D. L. Johnstone, the author of Furies, posted to a group on Goodreads.  I clicked on his name and was intrigued by what I read about this book.  It's a historical mystery taking place in ancient Alexandria during the Roman Empire.  I consider that  a very interesting setting. 


I was impressed with the thoroughness of  Johnstone's research and his ability to incorporate it into the plot without trying to overwhelm us with detail.  For those who are interested in knowing more, there is a glossary which includes the sectors of the city of Alexandria.  I learned that Epsilon sector was the site of the original Egyptian city which was called Rhakotis.   I did notice one small error.  Native Egyptians were not called "Fellahin"  during the Roman Empire . This Arabic term arose during the Ottoman Period many centuries later.  See Fellah on Wikipedia 

 Johnstone also researched the Roman aspect.  I learned about how the laws and economy of Roman Alexandria.  I also learned about the opening act at gladiator exhibitions who were called the Praegenarii
They engaged in mock combat with blunted weapons for laughs.

I was surprised that the protagonist's wife, Titania had the right to take his son when she left him in the opening of the novel.  According to Wikipedia on Women in Ancient Rome , in a marriage between two free citizens, a wife could take custody of the children if she could prove that her husband was "worthless".  Titania probably could have done so because he had lost everything he owned.

From a mystery standpoint, this is a noir novel which is not my genre.  Aculeo, the sympathetic central character, made Furies seem less dark with his sense of honor and decency in the midst of all the corruption. Another character that I really liked was Sekhet, the Egyptian healer/medical examiner who assisted Aculeo in solving the case.

Although it was Kelli Stanley who inaugurated Roman noir with Nox Dormienda,  it says something when an indie author like D. L. Johnstone can write a book that is fully the equal of a traditionally published author like Kelli Stanley.  I will be looking forward to seeing what D. L. Johnstone writes next.

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