The North Wind Descends (The Lord Hani Mysteries)

Written by N L Holmes
Review by J. Lynn Else

1340 BCE. Tensions are high in Kemet under the sun king, Akhenaten, who has just named his brother Smenkhkare as co-regent. During a commission to visit with the vassal kings and ensure their loyalty, Lord Hani is called upon to investigate the murder of a Babylonian diplomat. He is accompanied by his secretary and son-in-law, Maya, and the search soon leads to a shocking secret affecting Hani’s family. And if the murderer isn’t identified, Hani’s failure could lead to war.

While everything looks New Kingdom Egyptian from the regional clothing styles, the complex political situation, the social structures, and setting details, the dialogue is peppered with modern inflections. Hani and Maya sound more like 18th-century British gents than Egyptian with their use of “my boy” and calling out men as “a dandy” or their rooms as “these digs.” And while Thebes is referred to by its Egyptian name, Waset, I was perplexed as to why the population referred to themselves as “Thebans,” harkening to its Greek-given title. Hani also mentions thoughts battering the walls inside his head. Egyptians believed thoughts arose from the heart, not the head. That idea wasn’t proposed until 6th century BCE by the Greek philosopher Alcmaeon.

Overall, this is a story about family with a diverse cast of characters. The mystery is less rich than the character dynamics. It is easy to empathize with Hani’s father, wife, daughters, sons, and friends. The author does a commendable job balancing personal and political plotlines. Details about clothing and cosmetics, social life, and architecture are immensely enjoyable. While some dialogue feels slightly out of place, the story is entrancing on many levels, especially with its vibrant characters. The novel can be read as a standalone, and I look forward to more from this series.