Author of thirteen novels set in Ancient Egypt and the Hittite Empire, N.L. Holmes is an archaeologist by training and has taught ancient history and humanities for years. Her past careers include antiques dealer, artist, interior decorator, and cloistered nun. These days, you'll find her in northern France with her husband, two cats, and a passel of chickens and geese, where she loves to garden, weave, play the violin, and of course, read. She has a grown son.
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When two young women in ancient Egypt open a medical dispensary, they don’t expect their first patient to be a dying florist of Amen whose last words are totally mysterious. It’s Neferet and Bener-ib’s nature to want to appease the ba of the murder victim by finding his killer, and their teenaged apprentice is a born detective. But between the skepticism of their own families and the malice of a rival healer, they find out the simple desire to do the right thing gets them into more trouble than they could have imagined!
Flowers of Evil
When a dead man shows up at their doorstep, two Ancient Egyptian women physicians get sucked into more danger than they anticipated.
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Everyone stood, hushed, waiting for a final word from the threshold of the other world. Sen-em-iah said nothing. His head lolled finally, and a tiny sibilance of breath escaped him.
They all stared at him expectantly until Neferet said in a quiet tone, “I think he’s passed to the West, mistress.”
She took the patient’s hand and pressed her fingers against the inside of the wrist. No pulse.
The woman stared at Neferet as if she couldn’t believe her. She made no move to wail or tear her hair.
“Who is he? Why might someone have done this?”
Since the wife was frozen, one of the servants answered. “Sen-em-iah son of Nakht is—was—Bearer of Divine Offerings of Amen, mistress. Chief florist of the Hidden One’s temple, like his father before him.”
Yahyah. That explains why he was just coming home at this hour of the morning. Florists work all night, while it’s cooler.
“Who would want to kill a florist?” she asked. “They don’t hurt anybody.”
“Maybe it was just a random attack,” suggested another of the servants. “Maybe they were going to rob the master.”
“Were you all with him when he was attacked?”
“Not me,” said an older man. “I’m the steward. I came out with the mistress of the house when the others yelled. These young fellows are the litter bearers and bodyguards. Yes, they were with him.”
No casual robber would have attacked anybody protected by eight stalwart young men. And Neferet knew what the servants didn’t—the attacker had not just stabbed Sen-em-iah but had ripped viciously. He had aimed to kill.
The steward said, “We brought him all the way here because we didn’t know where else a sunu could be found at this hour of the morning. One of these fellows lives in this neighborhood.”
Bener-ib, who had been listening intently, leaned over Sen-em-iah and drew down his eyelids.
That gesture brought his wife out of her shock, and she began to cry, quietly at first, but soon she was howling, keening, raking at her face with her nails.
“Perhaps mistress would like to go home, notify the children?” suggested the steward, taking her by the elbow. “If we could leave the master here briefly until we can call the servants of Inpu…?” He raised inquiring eyes to the two sunets, one after the other. Already, he was edging the distraught widow toward the door. The block of servants crowded after them.
“Of course,” said Neferet. “Is it all right if we come by later to ask a few questions? We’ll have to report this murder, now that we’re involved, and we’ll need to explain what we see’s been done to the body.”
The steward nodded distractedly over his shoulder, and the entire crowd disappeared through the door. The woman’s wails trailed off as they exited the gate, and soon Neferet, Bener-ib, and Mut-tuy were left staring at one another in silence. The young girl’s eyes were round as plates and scalpel sharp.
Mangler had entered and was lapping blood from the smooth plaster floor, his tail wagging in pleasure at the windfall.
Neferet gave her partner a long significant stare. “Do you realize what this is? Our first murder case.”
“Our first? Will there be more?” Bener-ib said faintly.
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