Byzantium, 1096. When a mysterious assassin looses his arrow at the Emperor, he has more than a man in his sights; the keystone of a crumbling empire, the Emperor is the solitary figure holding its enemies in check. If he falls, then the mightiest power in Christendom will be torn apart. Aware of the stakes, the Emperor hires Demetrios Askiates, the unveiler of mysteries, to catch the would-be-killer. But Demetrios is entering an unknown and mysterious world, a bubbling cauldron of princes, slaves, mercenaries, pimps and eunuchs. From the depths of the slums to the golden towers of the palace, and from the sands of the hippodrome to the soaring domes of Ayia Sophia, he must edge his way through a glittering maze of treachery and deceit before time runs out. Nor are all enemies within the city walls. With the Turks rampant across Asia, the Emperor has sent to the west for mercenaries to reinforce his position. He gets more than he bargained for, however, when a great army, tens of thousands strong, appear before the gates. The first crusaders have arrived, intent on making their fortunes in war, and they have no allegiance to an empire they eye with jealousy and suspicion.
As the armies of east and west confront each other, and the assassin creeps ever closer to his prey, Demetrios must untangle the golden web of intrigue which surrounds the Emperor before the city - and the empire - are drowned in blood. A gripping historical epic that transports the reader back to an eventful and exhilarating era: the violence and intrigue of the Middle Ages.
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(178mm x 110mm x 30mm)
Arrow Books Ltd
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US Kirkus Review »
In the waning years of the Byzantine Empire, a onetime mercenary and bounty hunter seeks the assassin who attempted to kill the emperor. Demetrios the Apokalyptor is not your typical private eye. He's a widower with a pair of smart, sarcastic daughters and not much in the way of a sense of humor, and he lives in Constantinople, circa 1096. But Harper, a student of medieval history at Oxford, gives him a first-rate debut. When a high-ranking eunuch Imperial advisor wants to know who took a shot at the emperor with a crossbow, he hires the Apokalyptor, his reputation burnished by years as bounty hunter and general problem-solver. By his side is Sigurd and his henchmen, a band of fierce Varangians (actually Celts from England, recently conquered by the Normans) itching for a fight with the partly Norman barbarian army closing in on Constantinople. Like most private eyes, Demetrios knows his city like the back of his hand; he can scour the place from the royal palace to the teeming markets and the foul roadsides where mercenaries and whores ply their trade. Harper resists the urge to stop the plot dead for lectures on the time and its curious geopolitical and religious entanglements. While the mystery can be ho-hum-Demetrios depends more on luck than deduction-plenty of drama is supplied by the invaders massing outside the city gates and the possibility of traitors inside the palace. A solid beginning for what could be a rewarding series. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Tom Harper
Tom Harper is the pseudonym for author Edwin Thomas. Writing as Thomas, he won the Crime Writers' Association debut award in 2001 for his swashbuckling naval historical novel The Blighted Cliffs, the first book in the 'Reluctant Adventures of Lieutenant Martin Jerrold' series. This is his second novel and his first as Tom Harper.