Jul 26 2008
edited to correct city name
Dear Ms Haney,
After a weekend spent watching “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns,” I was in the mood for ancient Egypt. When I saw your books listed at Fictionwise and they were offering Buywise discounts, well it was a good deal. I’m slightly confused about the order in which the series should be read but from what I can gather, you went back and wrote this book as an intro to the already established series. Correct me if I’m wrong.
I love the historical detail and agree that it’s a fine line between a) including enough – especially for a time period that’s not used often enough for readers to be familiar and comfortable with it – b) not having enough or c) going overboard. I could feel the baking heat, see the blinding sun, smell the sweat. Thank you for including reminders about the importance of religion in the lives of the characters. But lots of these characters seem fairly naive. Bak wonders that anyone could attack a woman, he marvels that anyone would be willing to risk punishment to commit murder or other serious crimes. Really? Has he been that sheltered?
Bak as a policeman – well, he’s not. At least not at first. He’s a trained Army officer – something that helps him many times, but he’s not been trained to interview witnesses, set up sting operations, investigate a crime scene, etc. I’m willing to cut him some slack during his first time at bat but it’s something I hope he begins to pick up. I think he will as by book’s end, he seems to be shifting his focus more towards how a law enforcer would think. However in this story, he took the word of his suspects quite a few times such as when certain people told him they couldn’t read. They know he’s investigating a murder so why should he believe anything they say without independent corroboration?
The mystery was nicely done if a bit dragged out. There’s a lot of “setting the scene” that must be done with a first book but I have to agree with another reviewer I read who said she wanted to know more about Bak. Even after reading a very long book, I still don’t know that much about the man himself. Yes, I know his honor, integrity, courage and intelligence but not much about his background beyond the fact that he’s been banished to this godforsaken frontier town because he mad some important people mad during a raid on a brothel.
I know I said I like the period detail – and I do – but there’s a lot of detail that wasn’t needed and that tended to slow the action to a crawl. At the beginning of the book, we get a very detailed description of the house in which the initial crime takes place. Was it needed? Well, not as much since there’re even more descriptions during later scenes. The battle against the raiders during the return from the gold mine dragged on as well and since this is an action sequence, it needs to move quickly.
For the most part, the dialogue isn’t too modern nor is it ponderously faux old fashioned – except towards the end when for some reason, all of a sudden we’re getting stuff like this: “Bak checked, not for the first time, the dagger at his waist.” “He had coveted it exceedingly when first he had laid eyes on it.”
I like that Bak is very concerned about the men under his command. He might not want to be in Buhen, definitely doesn’t want to do what he’s been assigned to do but he’s determined that his men be protected from the prejudice of the townspeople and accepted as a legitimate source of law and order in this wild, frontier town.
Am I willing to try another Lieutenant Bak book? You betcha. Did I like it? Yes. Do I hope that things pick up, speed up and get moving? Oh, please. And do I want to learn more about Bak as I hope for his future? If you wouldn’t mind. B-for “Flesh of the God.”