Review of Secrets of the Nile by Tasha Alexander – recently published

Egyptian historical mysteries tend to be great, whether relatively recent or truly ancient…

I’m a huge fan of mysteries set in Egypt, whether they are modern-ish, like Parker Bilal’s Makana books; or somewhat recent historicals, like Michael Pearce’s Mamur Zapt series; or even set in truly ancient times, like Agatha Christie’s Death Comes as the End. And I like Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series too. So, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I was pre-disposed to enjoy the latest Lady Emily book, Secrets of the Nile, just based on its title, even before I received my review copy. And enjoy it I did…

As in other recent Lady Emily books (see my reviews here and here), Alexander has woven two stories around each other: the first set in the days of the Pharaohs, and the second in the early 1900s. Both feature strong female characters and both stand well on their own. Lady Emily’s mystery feels a lot like a classic Agatha Christie: a group of British expatriates in an elegant house in a remote part of the Levant, an unexplained death, lots of archeological digs, even more clues, and an eventual bring-all-the-suspects-together denouement where Lady Emily comes up with the final explanation. In the ancient tale, on the other hand, we get to know Meryt, who grew up as the daughter of the best painter in the rather well-off village, Pa Demi (modern-day Deir el-Medina), that housed the elite craftsmen who worked on the nearby royal tombs. Meryt was educated alongside her twin brother, and although she initially wanted to be a painter as well, she soon found that sculpture was her real vocation. But something is wrong in Pa Demi, and Meryt, and her husband Kamose, seem to be at the center of it. And we have to wait, not very patiently, until nearly the end, to understand how the two tales finally link together.

I’m typically not much of a fan of the two stories/two timelines approach. IMO, even with a skilled author like Alexander, it’s almost impossible not to feel a little bit “bounced around” when switching from one to the other, and then back again. But I’d take at most half-a-star off for this. And then, for those who, like me, love their Egyptian mysteries, it’s worth noting there are some little Easter eggs from another well-known Egyptian historical series tucked away to find here and there in this one! So that gives half-a-star back, and I ended up with five stars for Secrets of the Nile. And finally, my thanks to the publisher, Minotaur Books, and to NetGalley for my review copy!

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