As with all great historical fiction, Resa Nelson’s MURDER IN THE BLACK LAND pairs a fictional cast of characters with a very real time and place. Set in ancient Egypt, Nelson borrows heavily from the historical record, crafting a rich, suspense-laden mystery steeped in atmosphere. And at the center of it all is Angelique, a reluctant queen facing threats on all fronts. Angelique has always resented her royalty and the disingenuous reactions it inspires in others. When her husband (the Pharaoh) died, the last thing she wanted was to rule in his place, but she was forced to do just that. Penaware may have been the rightful heir to the throne of Egypt, but Angelique knew that her son was far too young to oversee a kingdom. She’d planned to rule until her son was ready, but Penaware refused to shed his brash, immature nature as he grew older. To make matters worse, Penaware’s birthday is fast approaching, a day that’s supposed to mark his ascension to the throne. As much as she loves her son, Angelique can’t bear the thought of Penaware taking her place. The Queen’s rule brought peace to the Black Land—a string of progress that Penaware is poised to erase. Enter Hennet, the envious priest who will stop at nothing to see order and tradition restored to Egypt. With Penaware growing more impatient with each passing day, Hennet hatches a devious plan to erase Angelique’s rule and replace her with her murderous son.
With several well-received novels under her belt (including the four-part Dragonslayer’s Sword series), Resa Nelson’s writing exudes a ‘been there, done that’ sense of confidence. In the case of MURDER IN THE BLACK LAND, this means a strong female protagonist, a well-rounded supporting cast, and a clever, well-paced plot. As Nelson points out, MURDER IN THE BLACK LAND is the product of decades of interest and research. The author’s reverence for Ancient Egyptian culture is apparent from cover to cover, perhaps best exemplified by the immersive world-building. Historical fiction buffs will appreciate Nelson’s attention to detail, but this is hardly a stodgy history lesson that reads like a textbook. In fact, other than the ancient setting, Nelson delivers a riveting page-turner that feels remarkably contemporary in its delivery. But despite the novel’s intriguing premise and blistering pace, readers may find its ending a bit underwhelming. Of course, given the novel’s status as a prequel (to Our Lady of the Absolute), a jarring cliffhanger was likely unavoidable, but the sense of deflation is there nonetheless. Fortunately, the second half of this story was published a few years back, making MURDER IN THE BLACK LAND a perfect place to start for those unfamiliar with Nelson’s work.
Blending an Ancient Egyptian setting with a modern storytelling approach, Resa Nelson’s MURDER IN THE BLACK LAND is an immersive historical thriller with tons of crossover appeal.
~James Weiskittel for IndieReader