Eight for Eternity: A John the Lord Chamberlin Mystery
This mystery is the eighth in the series set in the time of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora in 6th-century Byzantium featuring sleuth/eunuch John the Lord Chamberlain. The backdrop of this crime is the riots between the Blues and the Greens (chariot racing fans) which lasted a week in early 532 AD, killed tens of thousands and burned much of the city, including the church which Justinian would eventually replace with the glorious Aya Sophia which stands in Istanbul today.
A Green and a Blue are among a number of men condemned to death. This pair, however, escape the hangman’s nooses when the ropes break twice. Then they vanish from the Church where they’ve been taken for sanctuary until this miracle can be explained. One turns up dead in a nearby cistern. John the Lord Chamberlain is then pressed into housing a trio of Justinian’s relatives for safekeeping as the riots flare, Persian envoys come to treaty, old friends die of poison and demons haunt the city walls.
I agree with the sleuth’s final assessment that the riots with their massive loss of life are a distraction, both for the Lord Chamberlain and for the reader. Although the factions are integral to the plot, violence of the footballer variety defies the tidy logic we like in our mysteries.