The Sacred Scarab
This story is one of a series set in Ancient Egypt at the time of the New Kingdom. Hopi and Isis, brother and sister, were orphaned when their parents were killed by crocodiles. Hopi is still lame from the crocodile attack; he is a pupil of Menna, an elderly priest. Isis is a gifted dancer, and the two of them live with a family troupe of dancers and musicians in the city of Waset – modern Luxor.
Three mysteries weave their way through the book: one involving an unexpected visitor; one about a crooked tax collector; the third, a rather gruesome problem at the embalmers’ workshops. Of course, all these mysteries are linked. When the tax collector books the dance troupe for a party at his house, Isis and Hopi become involved, and a race against time ensues to uncover the truth.
The plot is cleverly worked out, and the story moves along fast and is mildly exciting. However, the main charm of the book is in the fascinating detail of Ancient Egyptian life. These people are busy around the home or at work – storing grain, cooking and brewing, and coping with everyday problems that include the difficulties and obligations of living in an extended family. They give a picture of what life may really have been like at that time.
For a short book there are a lot of characters, and I was glad to find a cast list at the back, along with a map, a glossary, and a wealth of information about other subjects touched on in the story. Hopi and Isis are appealing characters in a strong setting and the series deserves to be a success.