Six for Gold: A John, the Lord Chamberlain Mystery #6

By Eric Mayer, Mary Reed

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Why are sheep in a remote Egyptian village cutting their own throats?…That’s the mystery Emperor Justinian inexplicably sends his Lord Chamberlain John the Eunuch to solve, at the very time John desperately needs to clear himself of accusations he murdered a senator in the Hippodrome. Mehenopolis, a pilgrim destination thanks to its ancient shrine to a snake deity as well as the home of the late sheep, is nearly as byzantine in its ways and undercurrents as Constantinople. Among suspicious characters John encounters are a pretentious local landowner battling a self-styled magician for control of the lucrative shrine, an exiled heretical cleric, an itinerant bee-keeper, and a disgraced charioteer. Meanwhile, in Constantinople, John’s good friend Anatolius does his best to trace the senator’s murderer. At stake are not only John’s honor and his head, but also the family with whom he recently reunited, now in danger of being broken apart or worse.


“The setting, sixth-century Byzantium, is still fresh, still full of wonders and weirdness. And, like Lindsey Davis’ Falco series, there’s an agreeable mixture of drama and comedy. Fans of the series will be overjoyed.” --Booklist

“Filled with quirky characters, including a bee seller and a magician, this fresh entry with its intriguing details of Egyptian culture reveals further depths to the most clever John and his family members.” --Publishers Weekly

"Mary Reed and Eric Mayer are the most reliable hit-producing machine since The Everly Brothers. Their latest John caper, Six For Gold, is as aureate as its title. In this outing, our hero is sent to the always mysteriously dangerous land of Egypt, ostensibly to probe at imperial orders reported cases of suicidal sheep--an inspired touch, this. While John, with wife and servant, encounter sundry bizarre local personalities and customs, back in Constantinople his friends and enemies are kept busy with intrigues and murders, creating an effective double narrative. Though their scenes are few, we feel the sinister presence of Justinian and Theodora looming over every move. The dungeon encounter between John and the malevolent empress is one of the most genuinely blood-curdling chapters I have read in years. As always, there are many rib-ticking jokes (I may have to sue the authors for permanent damage to said body parts), and the mastery of Byzantine 'Realia' is as impressive as ever. I iterate my standard complaint about this series: why cannot Reed-Mayer bring out one a month? Still, while Sue Grafton must presumably pension off Kinsey after 26, unless she switches to the Greek alphabet, the One-For, Two-For sequence is happily infinite."-- Barry Baldwin, Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Calgary.

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