Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Seven for a Secret by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Seven for a Secret by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Seven for a Secret by Mary Reed and Eric MayerBuy from

Seven for a Secret by
A John the Eunuch Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-489-9 (1590584899)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-489-7 (9781590584897)
Publication Date: April 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Who killed the mosaic girl? As Lord Chamberlain, John spends his days counseling Emperor Justinian while passing the small hours of night in conversation with the solemn-eyed little girl depicted in a mosaic on his study wall. He never expected to meet her in a public square or afterwards find her red-dyed corpse in a subterranean cistern. Had the mysterious woman truly been the model for the mosaic years before as she claimed? Who was she? Why had she sought John out? Who wanted her dead -- and why?

The answers seem to lie among the denizens of the smoky streets of that quarter of Constantinople known as the Copper Market, where artisans, beggars, prostitutes, pillar saints, and exiled aristocrats struggle to survive within sight of the Great Palace and yet worlds distant. John encounters a faded actress, a patriotic sausage maker, a sundial maker who fears the sun, a religious visionary, a man who lives in a treasure trove, and a beggar who owes his life to a cartload of melons. Before long he suspects he is attempting to unravel not just a murder but a plot against the empire. Or is John really on a personal quest, to find the reality behind the confidante he thought existed only in his own imagination? Is there such a thing as truth in a place where people live on memories, dreams, and illusions? Even if there is, can John push aside the shadows and find the truth in time?

Review: John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, investigates the murder of a women in 6th century Constantinople in Seven for a Secret, the seventh mystery in this historical series by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer.

In a typical day, John retires to his office following his consultations with the emperor. There he reflects on current events, often looking out on a mosaic wall that contains the likeness of a young woman who seems to be looking at him, asking him to confide in her. One evening while strolling through the streets near the Great Palace, a woman confronts him, introducing herself as Zoe, the model for the mosaic, and asking that he meet her the next evening. Not sure why, he agrees, and then at the appointed time and place he discovers her murdered, strangled, her face painted red. As he searches for her killer through the market, he's followed. Who was this woman? Why was she murdered? He senses he's being drawn into a situation that may be greater in scope than he initially imagined, and that his life may be in danger.

The books in this series are inspired by actual events attributed to Procopius, secretary and advisor to General Belisarius, during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (c. 505-565). This lends an air of authenticity to the story that enhances its appeal as a historical mystery, though the authors clearly draw parallels between the 6th century and today. The city and its citizens are well drawn and provide a good backdrop to John's investigation. The plot itself unfolds at a measured pace allowing the reader to be as puzzled as John as to what may be happening around him. With a few twists in the story and the various plot threads neatly wrapped up in the end, Seven for a Secret should satisfy not only fans of historical mysteries but also those seeking an interesting story in an unusual setting.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Seven for a Secret and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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