The Sheen on the Silk
Ballantine, Mar 23 2010, $27.00
In 1273 physician Anna Zarides learns that her twin Justinian has been proclaimed guilty as a conspirator of murdering Bessarion Comnenos. She refuses to believe her sibling would kill the prominent politically connected victim, who was perhaps the most powerful opponent of the Byzantium Empire merging with Rome.
Anna, dressed up as the eunuch Anastasius Zarides, crosses the Bosporus to Constantinople to find proof her brother, living in exile in Judea, is innocent. She quickly builds up a thriving medical practice among the traders as well as some of the influential people like Emperor Michael, Orthodox Bishop Constantine and the late Bessarion’s mother-in-law Zoe Chrysaphes the poisoner. However, in spite of her growing clientele, Anna makes little progress in finding evidence to exonerate her sibling as the city’s Christians are divided into factions over whether the Holy Ghost exists. The power struggle between the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor and the Byzantium Emperor and others threaten the well being of the innocent.
This is a powerful historical thriller in which the real major events of a critical but tumultuous era supersede the fictional cast and the whodunit. The story line is fast-paced due to all that is happening on the world stage while the inquiry moves along much slower as that serves more as a subplot mechanism to enable the audience to follow the religious and political turmoil. With a nod to Baudolino by Umberto Eco (though seven decades later); readers will relish a trip back in time to thirteenth century Constantinople, the cross between Rome and the Holy Land.