Two for Joy

Reviewed by Nancy Mehl
From The Charlotte Austin Review Ltd.

John the Eunuch, Lord Chamberlain to the august Emperor Justinian of Byzantium, the heart of the Roman Empire in the sixth century, has a problem. Make that several problems. First of all, his old teacher Philo, a philosopher who has been displaced from his home in Athens, has taken up residence in John’s home. While John tries to look after and protect his former instructor, he must also watch over the health and safety of his servant Peter. Peter, a devout Christian, appears to be failing, and his master John, a servant of Lord Mithra, fears that he may lose his dear friend.

With these problems weighing on his mind, John the Eunuch is unprepared for the strange wave of supernatural occurrences sweeping the land. Stylites, holy men who live atop columns in the city, suddenly burst into flames after Michael, a supposed prophet and healer, predicts the wrath of God upon Constantinople unless Emperor Justinian grants him an audience.

Michael’s next predictions call for the death of others by the same consuming fire, and for the sea itself to be set ablaze. As the horrific prophecies are fulfilled, a friend of John’s is found murdered. Meanwhile, Justinian seems determined that John must act as liaison between him and Michael, until he withdraws to contemplate the religious significance of Michael’s claims, leaving John in the clutches of the evil and treacherous Empress Theodora, wife of the powerful Emperor. Theodora hates John, although John is not certain why. He knows that his life, and the lives of those he cares about, are in danger as long as Theodora holds the reins of power over them.

John must find a way to protect his friends, solve a murder, and discover who Michael really is before the entire city is set ablaze by the powers of the strange, charismatic man who stands outside the city, calling fire down from the heavens. John fears that Michael may possess the ability to bring the citizens and the Emperor of Byzantium to their knees.

Two for Joy is the second in the John the Eunuch series, and it does not disappoint. The first novel, One for Sorrow, was a delightful introduction to the unusual detective, John the Eunuch. Two for Joy expounds and opens up John’s life and personality, while presenting an intriguing plot. There are several subplots that twist and turn, connecting together like the back alleys and streets of Constantinople. The reader is thrust into the sixth century amid interesting facts and ancient deities. Yet John and his friends and foes are so skillfully written that they are full, rich, and completely understandable centuries later.

Two for Joy is one of the best novels I’ve read. Mary Reed and Eric Mayer have created a splendid detective and placed him in magnificent surroundings. A must read for anyone who enjoys unique detectives and great mysteries. Highly recommended.

Nancy Mehl is author of the mystery novels Sinner's Song (St Kitt's Press, 200l) and Graven Images (AmErica House, 2002) as well as Nutrition For The Golden Years (America Books, 200l).

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