REVIEW of Death of an Eye by Dana Stabenow (Eye of Isis #1)

Death of an eyeA young woman from ancient Alexandria, Tetisheri works in dealing luxuries and antiques with her merchant uncle. She also happens to be the lifelong friend of Cleopatra, a friend sorely needed in the dangerous world of Roman and Alexandrine politics. When Cleopatra asks Tetisheri to find some newly-minted currency that’s gone missing, Tetisheri cannot refuse.

As the “eye” of the queen, Tetisheri teams up with hunky bodyguard Apollodorus to investigate Cleopatra’s envious brother Ptolemy and the Roman officials in Julius Caesar’s entourage. Her own frightening past resurfaces as she is forced to confront the cruel and disgusting man who used to be her husband. Interrogation, murder, and pirates are the order of the day as the queen’s eye searches through Alexandria and beyond to accomplish Cleopatra’s bidding.

A detective story set in the ancient world cannot help but lend itself to comparison with Lindsey Davis’ Falco books, particularly since Tetisheri is in the auction business with her uncle just as Falco is with his father. In many respects, the comparison is an unfavorable one for Stabenow. While Davis’ Falco books steep in history, they also sparkle with wit and create memorable characters that walk off the pages. The Death of an Eye struggled to accomplish all those tasks, and while I did feel generally enriched regarding the history of the period, I struggled to enjoy the characters or to follow all the loose historical threads brought in for the finale. In the end, Cleopatra’s machinations, while evidence of her cleverness, ended up making Testisheri’s whole quest feel pointless.

One oddity is that the book was strangely clean and simplistic throughout most of it but had a few jarring episodes of sex and obscene language. With those scenes removed, I think this book would fare well as a young adult novel.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

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