Monday, May 20, 2013

The City of Refuge by Diana Wilder

Review by Victoria Dixon


It was once the glory of Akhenaten's reign, called "The Horizon of the Aten'. Now the once magnificent city Amarna lies wrecked, abandoned and accursed, dreaming in the darkness on the edge of the Nile.

Police Commander Khonsu has never believed in curses, but he can't deny his own foreboding when he learns that the city's stone quarries will be reopened at Pharaoh's command by a delegation from the great temple of Ptah at Memphis, headed by Lord Nebamun, its second-ranking priest, a man without a past who is not afraid of ghosts, curses or the dead.

As commander of the provincial police force assigned to guard the expedition, Khonsu accompanies the enigmatic Nebamun to the ruined city, where he finds himself entangled in a drifting web of betrayal, murder and revenge that has its deepest roots in the shadows of the city's heresy-tainted past.

The City of Refuge is a story of hidden treasure, revenge and murder and one man's discovery that the paths of righteousness may lie through peril, but they will always bring you home.

The City of Refuge is, I believe, the first of Diana Wilder's Egyptian murder mysteries in "The Memphis Cycle". Pay attention as there are two characters from City of Refuge who reappear in some way for Pharaoh’s Son, which I reviewed here.

Just as in Pharaoh’s Son, The City of Refuge shows Wilder’s interest in belief and how it can be enacted in our lives. In this story, she used the tale of Horus and Set, the murderer and avenger of Ancient Egypt. I thought the myth well used throughout the book and the end scenes where the cosmic battle is echoed between hero and villain were vivid and gripping.

However, what I found most enjoyable about the book was the fraternity between the two main characters. I loved both of those men dearly. They were real to me and I would love to see them in other stories, which I can only hope Ms. Wilder writes soon.