Thirty years after winning a war against the cruel Hyksos of the Red Lands, the remaining heroes of the conflict, the Panthers of the South, are living, rich and prosperous, under Queen Hatusu’s reign in Thebes—until they begin to fall victim, one by one, to the hand of an unknown slayer. Amerotke, Chief Judge of Egypt (The Anubis Slayings, 2001, etc.), would rather focus on another death: the poisoning of young scribe Ipumer, a stranger to the city and a member of the Hyksos. Because Lady Neshratta, daughter of General Peshedu, one of the Panthers, is charged with the murder, however, Amerotke, with his faithful servant Shufoy ever in attendance, postpones the trial to deal with the Panther-killings. Joining the surviving Panthers in a pilgrimage to the Red Lands—where they had buried the enemy Queen Meretseger 30 years before—he finds only an empty gravesite. Not until Amerotke resumes the trial of Neshratta do the killer’s identity and cloudy motives come to light.
A confusing torrent of plot and subplot, along with a steady drip of minutely detailed descriptions of period dress and décor, makes the going heavy and unsuspenseful. Except perhaps for those with a special interest in the period, Amerotke’s latest forgets that even in ancient Egypt, less could have been more.