Year of the Hyenas

Written by Brad Geagley
Review by Val Perry

In 1153 BCE, the body of a murdered priestess washes up in the Nile. The local authorities send for Semerket, a talented young man consumed by past regrets, to solve the case. As his investigation progresses, he encounters several people—from the very lowest to the highest in Egypt—who encourage, threaten, or warn him to drop the case. Semerket concludes that the murder is only a single thread woven in a larger tapestry of intrigue, sacrilege and treason—but will he be able to save the next victim (not to mention himself)?

The sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes of twelfth-century B.C.E. Egypt are rendered vividly, though some of the more fantastic and/or magical scenes are difficult to picture. The world of ancient Thebes offered here is full of small daily dramas as well as the grandiose ones we expect in such a work, and these deserve the same artistic attention that Geagley brings to many of the stronger personal moments. Some of the characters (including the hero) occasionally seem inconsistent, displaying almost modern reactions to situations involving nudity, sex and/or violence that probably would not have caused inhabitants of the ancient world much discomfiture. The male characters seem drawn with far more sympathy and depth than the female ones, who seem to comprise the familiar stereotypes of vamp, good girl and shrew. Such issues may occasionally slow down the story, but they do not stop it. Year of the Hyenas is an enjoyable read overall. Although some clues to the conspiracy are rather easy to figure out, the grander conspiracy surrounding it all unfolds at a steady pace at just the right time. Geagley has a great story and good characters that would benefit from a bit more excavation of the treasures within the book itself.