Oh, hi there., Just writing my blog entry on Shadows of the Damned, the second in the In Maat’s Service series, mysteries starring two young doctors set in ancient Egypt, the Middle Period, I think. How would I know. All those sand dunes look alike. You can refresh your memory about the previous book, Apprenticed to Anubus here. In fact, go read that blog entry now, because it has a lot of information in it which will be helpful in talking about Shadows of the Damned. I’ll wait.
Although Shadows is a stand alone, it actually would be really helpful to have read Apprenticed first, because there are a fair amount of unexplained references back to events and activities in that book. In this volume, Dr. Hori and his BFF Dr. Nakhtmin become involved in another situation in the institution, the weryt, where the embalming is done, all with secrets and mysteries. As you will know from the first book, the insides of the dead bodies are removed and placed in sealed jars. Not the brains, though. Egyptians believed the seat of the soul and all activities was in the heart, and the brain was nothing, so they just sucked that part out and tossed it. But the heart, being the core and seat of the soul was placed in a jar until the embalmed body was ready for it to be replaced. I think I have this right. Well, to the horror of the officials of the weryt, a second heart was found in a jar along with the proper heart, so the jar contained two hearts. This means there was a body around somewhere. So what happened? The person cannot gather its ka and ba together to go to the Afterworld without it. This is a huge big deal for the ancient Egyptians. Since Hori already knows the secrets of the weryt, his services are requested to do some detecting to find out what happened, where was the body, and how that body came to be without its heart.
Meanwhile, Nakhtmin becomes involved with his father-in-law, who is the Second Prophet of the Temple of Amun, and since the First Prophet is elderly and about to pass on to the Beautiful West, will become the head dude of the Temple. But another of the top four has been bitten by a cobra and died, meaning they also have to appoint another prophet in his place.
And more meanwhiles, Nakhtmin’s wife is pregnant, as is the wife of the Pharaoh. The two young doctors also have the responsibility of caring for the wives in the Pharaoh’s harem. But it seems that nefarious doings regarding ambition and power within the Temple are afoot, and there are mysteries to be solved there, as well.
Along come the painful and horrible deaths of some of the candidates for the prophet positions, which looks very much like poisoning, but which turns out to be the effects of a powerful curse. A secret rite of Osiris must be conducted to rid the area of the evil Shadows, and banish them forever in order to keep the effects of the curse from spreading.
So the various threads become interwoven and at the end of the book we find we have learned so much more about the life and mores of this time in this land than we ever would have bothered with in school, because it is all disguised as a great story! We learn that medicine and supernatural forces play an equal part in the physical well-being of the citizens of the time, and part of the doctor’s bag of diagnoses must be a full knowledge of curses, cures, and demons. There are potions, and then there are potions, if you will.
I really love these books. The writing is good, and we can thank the translator, Edith Parzefall for the English version. The tale has such an authentic feel, steeped in what is known about the ancient Egyptian civilization. It is not just some modern story dressed up in historical garb. It is an historical story.