There was a four-year gap between the first Sherlock Holmes story and the next. This well-crafted tale tells us what Arthur Conan Doyle was up to during that time. I’ll give you a hint. It involves Jack the Ripper.
Okay, I know. You’re rolling your eyes. Doyle wasn’t actually involved in hunting down the Ripper. This isn’t a true account. It’s historical fiction. A murder mystery. A Victorian whodunit. And do we really need another Ripper story to add to gazillion already out there? I can’t answer as to need, but we can always use more really good stories, and this is one. The characters have depth. Their words and actions feel real. The setting is vividly drawn and historically accurate (to the extent that fiction can be). The events described are believable. The pacing is good, and the story is intriguing. It tickles your intellect and nudges your emotions. Yeah, this is a good book. I don’t give out a lot of five-star ratings, but this earns one. I’m happy to recommend it to readers who appreciate historical fiction or a good murder mystery.
Let me start out by saying that I am not well suited or remotely qualified to review this novel. I seldom read historical fiction; I have only a superficial knowledge of ancient Egypt, and stories of family strife and romance seldom engage my interest. Despite all of this, The Sekhmet Bed held my attention.
I downloaded this book mainly because Ms. Ironside is a prolific contributor to Goodreads discussions and I have found her comments consistently well informed and well considered. That, and she was running a free promotion and I thought it was time to read something different than science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, which are what I normally select for leisure reading and are the genres in which I write.
The story is set in ancient Egypt, a little over 3,000 years ago. The main character, Ahmose, is the younger of two princesses, both of whom become wives of the next pharaoh. As first wife, Ahmose is expected to produce a male heir. This becomes the central plot of the story. Expertly interwoven within that plot is an account of Egyptian history and culture, a description of how ancient Egyptian nobility lived, an exploration of sibling rivalry, some romance, and a bit of political intrigue and power manipulation. It even has a touch of fantasy in the form of prophetic dreams. I can’t say it is the type of novel that would keep me up late but it held my interest for the three days it took me to read it and I never considered not finishing. For someone with my taste in books, this is high praise indeed.
The Sekhmet Bed is very well written, although a bit more literary than I prefer. I don’t think I’m an impatient reader but waxing poetically about the stillness of the air or the history and significance of an article of clothing are normally bits I skim over. And there is some of this in this book but it is not overdone to the point of distraction and I’m sure it is both suitable and even expected for this genre. The characters are well formed and feel real with believable personalities. It is easy to identify and sympathize with them.
I found, at most, about half a dozen typos and a few cases of awkward prose but nothing that disrupted my reading for over a second. These types of things are normal in both traditionally published and self published books so I am quick to overlook them, especially if the price is low.
I would recommend this book to readers of historical fiction. I don’t wish to sound sexist, because I don’t believe I am at all, but I think this particular novel will appeal especially to women because of the female main character, romance, and exploration of family relationships. My overall rating is 4.5 stars.