A Path of Shadows
by Lauren Haney
Reviewed by Coral
A Path of Shadows is, chronologically, the 8th book in Haney's Lieutenant Bak mysteries. Taking place in Ancient Egypt, in the time of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, these books follow soldier Bak and his loyal Medjay soldiers as they protect, serve, and solve murders around the southern outpost of Buhen.
Or at least they did. Following from the last book, their unit, under Commandant Thuty, has been transferred, and we open as they are making their way to their new posting, Mennufer. Everyone has plans to be there as quickly as possible, but that all comes to a crashing halt when they make a stopover at Waset so Thuty can visit its commandant, a long time friend of his. The man's son, Minnakht, has gone missing in the desert and, as Bak's reputation precedes him, he is recommended for the job. He can hardly refuse.
And so he's off, trekking across the unforgiving Eastern Desert, the last place Minnakht was seen alive. Accompanied by only a few Medjay soldiers, and a guide many believe responsible for Minnakht's death, Bak must survive not only the elements, but nomads who are more than wary of strangers, and a caravan of explorers and traders they bumped into, all potential suspects.
Lauren Haney is an amazing writer. Ancient Egypt - called Kemet in this book, as it was known at the time - comes alive in her words. Beyond that she's also written it realistically. Though sometimes we might want to forget it, it was a world where all things weren't equal; not between the classes, or the genders. Some authors shy away from those, the bad authors ignore them completely with utterly ridiculous results. Haney embraces them as part of the world she's chosen to explore.
The mystery unfolds at an easy pace, as Bak comes to know more about each of his suspects and, in turn, more about the missing Minnakht. It was interesting to learn about Minnakht through the eyes of each man questioned about him, be they father, admirers or rivals. Colored with their own life perspectives, seeing what they needed to see in a man they all admired, in one form or another. None of them is a true account, but each one contains a grain of the truth and it is left up to us to sort it all out to find the real Minnakht underneath it all.
This book is no exception with the numerous, unsuccessful attempts made on Bak's life. The man just has a target painted on his back. I guess it comes with being a policeman, no matter what time period you happen to live in. But, for once, there isn't a scene where Bak battles with the killer he's managed to catch alone, without his men as backup because he was too excited to wait for them.
Sorting through rumors of gold finds and other disappearances, a corpse with no name, and a rising body count, Bak sorts through it all to get to what, I believe, is a very satisfying and surprising ending.
So if you love ancient Egypt and mystery books, I strongly recommend picking this one up. It won't disappoint.