Lauren Haney's mystery series featuring Lieutenant Bak, commander of the Medjay police in the frontier fortress city of Buhen, set in the 18th dynasty of Queen Maatkare Hatshepsut, is a vital and exciting series, and makes for compelling and avid reading. And this latest Bak adventure, "A Place of Darkness" definitely lives up to the rave reviews that the first four books this series has garnered.
While inspecting the vessels (and their cargo) that are leaving Egypt proper for the South (Nubia & Kush), Bak and his police officers discover a cache of jewelry that had been plundered from the tomb of one of Egypt's first pharaohs. Questioning the smuggler however proves frustrating, as he proves to be completely ignorant of the finer workings of this thieving and smuggling operation. However news from Commander Thuty, the officer in charge of the garrison at Buhen, soon pushes this crime into the background. Thuty has been offered the command of the garrison at Mennufer (Memphis), and he wants to take the entire company with him. For Bak, this opportunity is a mixed blessing for this would mean the end of his exile from Egypt; however, moving back to Egypt would also mean bringing himself to the notice of his Queen, and her favourite, Senenmut, both of whom are not fans of Bak. Thuty, gives Bak a month's leave, so that he can visit his father at Waset (Thebes), and so that he can bring to the attention of Amonked, the storekeeper of Amon, evidence that the ancient tombs are being plundered. Bak secretly hopes that Amonked will allow him to investigate these thefts more fully. However Amonked has another task for Bak. For months now a series of fatal accidents have been plaguing the construction of Queen Hatshepsut's new memorial temple. The workers are beginning to spread rumours that the temple is plagued by a malevolent spirit, and this is affecting the progress of the construction. Amonked wants Bak to investigate these "accidents" more fully, for he suspects a more human hand at work. And indeed Amonked's suspicions prove true, for on the very day he takes Bak to the construction site, one of the chief architects, Montu, is found violently murdered. Now Bak must hunt a vicious killer, before more "accidents" can occur. For Bak, success is important as a lot is riding on it -- not only is his own physical well-being dependent on his success but his career as well, for failure to discover this most audacious of killers is bound discredit him and bring him to the attention of Senenmut and Queen Hatshepsut. Something he could definitely do without right now!
"A Place of Darkness" is a compelling and brilliant read. Lauren Haney has layered and textured this mystery so effectively, that you literally get the impression of delving deep into the desert sands in order to arrive at the heart of the mystery. The descriptions of the building site, and all the work that is put into building a temple was vivid and evocative. The amount of care that the authour went into to bring places and sites to life is there for all to see. The novel was likewise skillfully constructed and cleverly executed. And the level of tension is well sustained throughout the novel -- Haney successfully builds on the tension, never missing a beat. And there is our police detective, Bak: a very appealing, clever, wily and credible sleuth. Definitely, the Lieutenant Bak series is an absolutely wonderful mystery series, and "A Place of Darkness" is an absolutely wonderful and riveting read.