Historical Fiction: The Sheen on the Silk, by Anne Perry

3.0 out of 5 stars Anna/Anastasius

13th Century Byzantium, the famed city of Constantine, which was sacked decades ago by Venice during the Crusades. Into the milieu of a once great civilization struggling to regain its former glory, comes Anna Zarides, posing as a eunuch in hopes of discovering the fate of her beloved brother, accused of murder and sent into exile. Anna is a skilled physician, and she slowly establishes a successful practice ministering to upper and lower classes alike. Before long she is enmeshed in the deadly religious and political contests between East and West, Roman and Orthodox, and she must use exquisite care to avoid discovery of her true nature. Veteran novelist Anne Perry does her usual outstanding job of bringing the atmosphere of her setting to vivid life. Unfortunately, she is not as successful with plot and characters. This story, which could be compelling, becomes lost in endless scenes of conspiracy and political machination, both in Byzantium and Italy. There is no edge here, no real suspense or urgency about Anna’s fate or her brother’s. More judicious editing might have produced a tauter story, but since that did not happen, the story is merely ho-hum.

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