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Seven for a Secret: A John the Eunuch Mystery    by Mary Reed & Eric Mayer order for
Seven for a Secret
by Mary Reed
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The husband and wife team of Mary Reed and Eric Meyer has written the seventh in their series set in the 6th century reign of Justinian. John, the Lord Chamberlain tells the tale, making reference to his being captured by slavers and made into a eunuch to enhance his value. He was sold in Constantinople and through hard work has raised himself in Justinian's court to become a man of value to the empire.

Unfortunately, everyone must watch their Ps and Qs as Justinian's wife Theodora has a vile temper and no compassion. Many heads roll and families are set out on the street with nothing. John lives in a modest house with his wife and servant. A mosaic on the wall of his office depicts a young girl with a compelling look. John resolves issues by talking to this image. One day he sees the model for this figure and there the story takes off - though rather slowly. There is no sense of urgency even when John chases through the streets looking for her.

But this gives the reader a chance to absorb the history that is so clearly depicted. The authors seem to lift the reader from his chair and carefully deposit him on the teeming streets of this wonderful old city. It is said that the only way to first view Constantinople (now Istanbul) is by the sea at dawn. I had the privilege of doing so and can recall my first impression. Seven for a Secret reinforces those memories.

Death and hints of mayhem abound as the story unfolds. Men of principle are in short supply. John, as the series protagonist, is one of them and finds life hard to live by his own standards when most of those around him make their own rules. The plot reveals some very intriguing characters who deepen the mystery. The thread of a suggestion of treason winds through the streets to add to the storyline. Seven for a Secret is a satisfying mystery and a good read.

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