Apprenticed to Anubis In Maat's Service Vol. 1
Wow! I just put down Apprenticed to Anubis, the new book by author Kathrin Bruckmann, and I must say, it was quite a fantastic read! Set in ancient
Egypt, the story follows Hori, a young man who has just graduated from medical school. When he and his friends are out celebrating their graduation, Hori accidentally kills the vizier's son, and
receives a strange sentence; he must spend the rest of his life in the service of the dead. But Hori's new job takes an unusual twist when he discovers that girls from the pharaoh's court are
being murdered during the course of the embalming and organ removal he must perform as a part of his job. Hori feels called to help, but if he leaves his post to investigate what he's found, he's
likely to get a death sentence himself.
Apprenticed to Anubis was an exciting, adventurous read that was absolutely worth my time. Besides getting to read a great work of fiction, and a great mystery, I also learned a lot about ancient Egypt. These kinds of books, where I can be entertained and educated at the same time, are my absolute favorite. Author Kathrin Bruckmann has done an wonderful job in creating characters that will stay with her readers long after the book is done, and her scene-setting is simply second to none. The reader will feel as if they are truly there with Hori, feeling exactly as he does. I am so pleased to recommend this book, and I will keep my eye out for more work by author Kathrin Bruckmann. She is certain to become a favorite of many!
Here’s a murder mystery with a different twist. It’s set in ancient Egypt, in the reign of Pharaoh Senusret III, whose dates are 1878 BC to 1839 BC, which was a time of great power and prosperity. Pharaoh Senusret III was the fifth monarch of the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. He was the one who achieved the building of the Canal of the Pharaohs, and was one of the few kings who were deified and honored with a cult during their own lifetime. If you care.
I could have just read through this book and enjoyed it, but I doubly enjoyed it because I looked up all the stuff I didn’t know about this time. Which was pretty much everything. Like Maat. The series is apparently called In Maat’s Service. Well, la di dah. Who is Maat? Yeah, well, who is Anubis for that matter? Google to the rescue!
Let’s start with Maat, because she is involved in the story. Sometimes it’s spelled Ma’at. (What are we supposed to do with those apostrophes in the middle of vowels? How do you pronounce an apostrophe?) Well, never mind, moving on. Maat, or Mayet, or Maae’t or māt or mayet, was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. (Thanks Wiki.)
Maat represents the ethical and moral principle that every Egyptian citizen was expected to follow throughout their daily lives. They were expected to act with honor and truth in manners that involve family, the community, the nation, the environment, and god. The King would describe himself as the “Lord of Maat” who decreed with his mouth the Maat he conceived in his heart.
Maat was usually represented as a young woman, sitting or standing, holding a was scepter, the symbol of power, in one hand and an ankh, the symbol of eternal life, in the other. Sometimes she is depicted with wings on each arm or as a woman with an ostrich feather on her head.
In the Egyptian underworld, the hearts of the dead were said to be weighed against her single “Feather of Ma’at”, symbolically representing the concept of Maat, in the Hall of Two Truths. This is why hearts were left in Egyptian mummies while their other organs were removed, as the heart was seen as part of the Egyptian soul. If the heart was found to be lighter or equal in weight to the feather of Maat, the deceased had led a virtuous life and would go on to Aaru. Here she is:
Now for Anubis, in whose service our protagonist is placed. Anubisis is the Greek name of a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart.” He was depicted in black, a color that symbolized both rebirth and the discoloration of the corpse after embalming. Later on he seems to have been combined with Wepwawet (also called Upuaut), another Egyptian god portrayed with a dog’s head or in canine form.
Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumed different roles in various contexts. Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC), Anubis was also an embalmer. This is Anubis on the left. Looks kinda like a Doberman Pinscher.
Now, why are we interested in Maat and Anubis? Because our protagonist, young Hori has just finished his training as a doctor, and passes the oral exam. After a celebratory party held by the son of the Vizier, they all go off to a bar, where the son of the Vizier tries to molest a young serving girl. Hori, being the dutiful follower of Maat that he is, tries to prevent further abuse, knocking the guy, who trips and falls, hitting his head and dying. The father, being quite powerful, tries to bribe witnesses to claim that Hori deliberately killed the youth. Fortunately, enough witnesses tell the truth, and the young Pharaoh Senusret has to walk a fine line here between justice and the wishes of his Vizier. Instead of condemning Hori to death, or to a life sentences in the stone pit, (pretty much the same thing), he sentences him to life in The House of Death, the weryt, an intensely secret place on an island where the dead are brought, cleaned, and embalmed. However, this means that although Hori is allowed to live, he can never leave the weryt, and it would cause his death to reveal any of the secrets from there to anyone outside the weryt.
It is during his work here that young Dr. Hori discovers that several young girls who end up on his embalming table have the same kind of puncture wound. He sees a pattern, and believes they have been murdered. But by who? And why? And so begins our tale.
A good mystery woven throughout with the thoroughly researched details of life in that time in ancient Egypt. You may learn just a bit more about the embalming practices of the Egyptians that perhaps you quite wanted to, but I loved it. So all in all, the book has all the elements that I like in historical mystery fiction: a feeling of authenticity of the period, a decent mystery, some likable characters that we can cheer for, and enough detail that I can learn something new.
Kathrin Brückmann is a German writer, living in Berlin, and the original is in German, so we must give due kudos to the fine translation of Edith Parzefall. I believe further adventures of Doctor Hori and his best friend, Doctor Nakhtmin are planned. I certainly look forward to reading them.
A complex deduction.
This brilliant plot takes the reader into a past they can only imagine from recorded events in ancient Egypt. The aspects of society fascinated me and the complicated names didn't cause me any problems as I've just finished reading two novels set in Wales with a myriad of people's unpronounceable names.
The plot reveals all of the ancient society's daily affairs. An early debauchery scene nearly turned me off. Then, the character Hori's disgusted thoughts reassured me the novel wouldn't continue that way. However, the witnessed incident remains an important clue. After their world is turned upside down, two lowly young doctors mingle with royalty while they try to solve a series of murders despite difficult circumstances.
Beautifully written by Kathrin Brückmann and translated into English by Edith Parzefall, the novel resembles a who-done-it by way of rowing to and fro across the river in the dark of night.
Shadows of the Damned In Maat's Service Vol. 2
Bird, triangle, snake, jar, ankh, eye. Oh, darn, I forgot. It’s ankh before jar, except after snake.
Oh, hi there., Just writing my blog entry on Shadows of the Damned, the second in the In Maat’s Service series, mysteries starring two young doctors set in ancient Egypt, the Middle Period, I think. How would I know. All those sand dunes look alike. You can refresh your memory about the previous book, Apprenticed to Anubus here. In fact, go read that blog entry now, because it has a lot of information in it which will be helpful in talking about Shadows of the Damned. I’ll wait.
Although Shadows is a stand alone, it actually would be really helpful to have read Apprenticed first, because there are a fair amount of unexplained references back to events and activities in that book. In this volume, Dr. Hori and his BFF Dr. Nakhtmin become involved in another situation in the institution, the weryt, where the embalming is done, all with secrets and mysteries. As you will know from the first book, the insides of the dead bodies are removed and placed in sealed jars. Not the brains, though. Egyptians believed the seat of the soul and all activities was in the heart, and the brain was nothing, so they just sucked that part out and tossed it. But the heart, being the core and seat of the soul was placed in a jar until the embalmed body was ready for it to be replaced. I think I have this right. Well, to the horror of the officials of the weryt, a second heart was found in a jar along with the proper heart, so the jar contained two hearts. This means there was a body around somewhere. So what happened? The person cannot gather its ka and ba together to go to the Afterworld without it. This is a huge big deal for the ancient Egyptians. Since Hori already knows the secrets of the weryt, his services are requested to do some detecting to find out what happened, where was the body, and how that body came to be without its heart.
Meanwhile, Nakhtmin becomes involved with his father-in-law, who is the Second Prophet of the Temple of Amun, and since the First Prophet is elderly and about to pass on to the Beautiful West, will become the head dude of the Temple. But another of the top four has been bitten by a cobra and died, meaning they also have to appoint another prophet in his place.
And more meanwhiles, Nakhtmin’s wife is pregnant, as is the wife of the Pharaoh. The two young doctors also have the responsibility of caring for the wives in the Pharaoh’s harem. But it seems that nefarious doings regarding ambition and power within the Temple are afoot, and there are mysteries to be solved there, as well.
Along come the painful and horrible deaths of some of the candidates for the prophet positions, which looks very much like poisoning, but which turns out to be the effects of a powerful curse. A secret rite of Osiris must be conducted to rid the area of the evil Shadows, and banish them forever in order to keep the effects of the curse from spreading.
So the various threads become interwoven and at the end of the book we find we have learned so much more about the life and mores of this time in this land than we ever would have bothered with in school, because it is all disguised as a great story! We learn that medicine and supernatural forces play an equal part in the physical well-being of the citizens of the time, and part of the doctor’s bag of diagnoses must be a full knowledge of curses, cures, and demons. There are potions, and then there are potions, if you will.
I really love these books. The writing is good, and we can thank the translator, Edith Parzefall for the English version. The tale has such an authentic feel, steeped in what is known about the ancient Egyptian civilization. It is not just some modern story dressed up in historical garb. It is an historical story.