The period of ancient Egyptian history, called the New Kingdom, is the setting for the second installment of NL HolmesLord Hani mystery series, The crocodile doesn’t make a sound† Egypt is in turmoil under King Akhenaten’s controversial policies, and when Hani’s brother-in-law, Amen-em Hut, is criticized for Akhenaten’s rule, he is soon missing. As if that wasn’t enough for Hani to deal with, Hani’s friend Kiya, who happens to be the king’s wife, is blackmailed for having an affair with a sculptor.
But in all the political scheming and solving intricate mysteries, HanicThe world is always centered on his family, while Holmes brings the everyday life of ordinary people to life:
Suddenly Hani was aware of a stream of bare footsteps and a swirl of skirt descending on him. He looked away from the letter to see that Neferet, his youngest, had approached with her usual impetuosity and stood before him, hands on hips.
†What can I do for you, my love?” he said, smiling at the sight of her dressed as a young lady, her child†s sidelock turned into the little braids of virginity. I can not believe it. The last of our children, almost grown up.
†I†I’ve made a decision, Daddy,” she said gravely and sat down next to him on the floor, pulling up her skirt to make it easier to cross her legs. At thirteen, she was still the stocky, broad-shouldered little hoyden he loved, despite the dress. †I†I’ve decided I want to be a doctor – a sunset†
†Is this something new? not me†I do not believe you†ever mentioned it.”
†I thought you wanted to be a horse,” Maya said with a straight face. Hani tried not to laugh.
Kirkus Reviews calls the novel “a satisfying mystery in a vividly realized historical setting,” which only makes sense considering Holmes is a professional archaeologist with a PhD from Bryn Mawr. (She was a nun for 20 years and has worked as an artist, antique dealer, and executive assistant.) Splitting her time between Florida and northern France, Holmes has participated in excavations in Greece and Israel and taught ancient history to college students.
In fact, it was a teaching assignment that inspired her to start writing fiction: She had given her students information about an ancient royal divorce and instructed them to “describe what had happened.” The assignment led Holmes to consider how constructing stories around historical documents was a lot like creating fictional characters and worlds.
But she didn’t start writing mysteries. Instead, Holmes’ first series was more of a psychological drama with dark, mean characters. While Holmes was writing it, she found herself wanting to switch to a different kind of genre. “I was so tired of living in these people’s heads for months,” she says. “I decided to do something heartwarming and enjoyable. To have nice, funny protagonists and to triumph for good over evil. Mysteries are a genre where everything works out well at the end; questions are answered and justice is served.”
The New Kingdom was attractive as a backdrop for the same reason that Holmes found it so fascinating as a historian: very little is actually known about it, meaning there’s a lot of room for imagination and speculation. Akhenaten’s reign was unimaginably revolutionary, says Holmes. “He took millennia-old beliefs and customs and institutions and unilaterally overturned them. The social and economic consequences must have been mind-blowing. You know there were a lot of angry people plotting chaos – his successors literally removed him from history. A great moment for a story about political intrigue!”
Many of the characters in the Mr Hanic series, including Hani herself, are based on real historical figures. Holmes says she feels she should “apologise to the shadows of those people for all the wrongs I committed in bringing them back to life,” because not enough is known about them to make their personalities anything but pure fiction. let be. But Holmes uses her training as a historian to find kernels of truth that can inspire her to write.
For example, she says that historians know that Hani was a real diplomat, that he accomplished real missions over a career spanning about 20 years, and also that he was considered reliable and sympathetic. Based on these facts, Holmes considered what kind of person could have that legacy and build that reputation, and then created the character of Lord Hani.
But readers will likely notice the attention to detail Holmes pays to Hani’s family life and the day-to-day lives of her more ordinary characters. As a teacher, she believes in helping her students understand that historical figures were real people, just like modern people. They made human choices that made it into the history books, and their lives were real too.
As for the ancient Egyptians, Holmes says: “We know that they were devoted to their families, that their women had many rights and soft power and could even be bosses over men. We know that they were tolerant of the disabled, had respect to the elderly and were sexually open.” Using these facts, Holmes aims to create characters that modern readers can recognize and empathize with. She believes this aspect of her writing is important to her because as an archaeologist she has spent a lot of time working with normal objects such as cooking utensils and toiletries, the kind of things people use every day.
Many writers of historical fiction fall into the trap of overloading the reader with information, but Kirkus notes that while “the danger of such a carefully researched subject is that the material can capsize the plot, Holmes skillfully puts historical exposition in her stories,” and adds. that the “crowded cast creates more suspects and opportunities for sequels.”
As for those sequels, Holmes says she has the “sixth and final Lord Hani book ready to go to the editor” and is also planning a companion series starring Hani’s daughter, as well as some prequels. She’s also gearing up to produce another book for Amazon’s serial genre, Vella†
Chelsea Ennen is a writer living in Brooklyn.