In the Shadow of the Bull

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Pub Date Jul 04 2023 | Archive Date Jun 30 2023

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In a world of Goddess worship, sacred snakes and sacrifice, human jealousy, resentment and betrayal still run wild . . .

Ancient Crete, 1450 BC. When her sister Arge drops to the floor in convulsions and then dies at her wedding, fifteen-year-old Martis, a young poet and bull leaper in training, is certain she was murdered.

The prime suspect is the groom, Saurus, a barbarian from the Greek mainland, but when Arge’s Shade visits Martis, swearing Saurus is not her murderer, Martis vows to uncover the truth.
As Martis begins asking questions, she discovers that while her sweet sister Arge may have had no secrets, many of the people around Martis certainly do… but if the murderer is not Saurus, then who is it? The Egyptian lady who frequents the docks, one of Martis’s other sisters, her father, or someone entirely different?
Martis is in a battle against time to save her sister’s Shade from eternal unrest and uncover the killer before they strike again . . .

In a world of Goddess worship, sacred snakes and sacrifice, human jealousy, resentment and betrayal still run wild . . .

Ancient Crete, 1450 BC. When her sister Arge drops to the floor in convulsions...

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ISBN 9781448310869
PRICE $29.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

In the Shadow of the Bull is a historical fiction mystery novel set on the Ancient Greek island of Crete. With Martis, a prospective bull leaper, trying to solve the murder of her older sister and bring her justice.

This book had vivid descriptions of clothing and regalia that was not only engaging and essential for establishing the setting, but also in maintaining historical accuracy and a establishing a sense of time and place. The plot entwines Martis’ vow to avenge her sister and her own ambitions to be a bull leaper, both elements of the plot are given equal coverage. It was nice that Martis had interests and goals instead of a vague two dimensional passion, the addition of her enjoying poetry also added to the story, giving additional detail and description in a lyrical manner.

From early on in the story I had a hunch on who the murderer was (based purely on vibes, not at all on evidence) and as the plot began to advance I thought I was certainly correct, however, the writing and plot were woven so well that I too, soon shared Martis’ doubt and confusion, and started seeing suspects everywhere. I did not foresee the murderer or the ending coming at all, the twist was well done. It would have been nice to have some closure for Martis and the characters beyond identifying Arge's killer.

Overall this story presents an engaging mystery in an ancient setting that evokes clear, strong imagery. It was a relatively fast paced, enjoyable read. Thank you to NetGalley, and the publisher Severn Press, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review, these thoughts are all my own.

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Martis is an interesting character. She is the youngest of four sisters – although one of her sisters is a house slave due to having been born in the wrong place. Martis is certainly a rebel – while her mother wishes her to become a weaver, she yearns to become a bull-leaper, like her grandfather. Her mother is an acolyte of the Priestess, who is the mouthpiece of the Goddess and is therefore reasonably well placed within Cretan society. However, when Arge, Martis’s older sister decides to marry a barbarian from the mainland, many people aren’t all that happy about it. It takes all of Arge’s persuasive powers to let the wedding take place, so there is general shock and grief when the bride dies during the ceremony in convulsions.

Martis is utterly horrified – Arge is her favourite sister, due to her sweet and gentle nature. But when Arge’s Shade visits Martis and claims she’s been poisoned – it’s Martis who she charges to find her murderer. It’s a heavy responsibility to bear and Martis is frankly overwhelmed at the task. Interestingly, the pace at this point slightly stutters and I did wonder if having such a very young and inexperienced protagonist was holding back the storyline. However, it turned out to be a smart move. For all Martis’s habit of sneaking off for secret practices at bull-leaping – she isn’t all that streetwise, which makes sense given her age and birth. So aspects of society need to be explained to her that would be apparent to adults of the time – and as the reader, we also get to learn about them.

Kuhn’s world-building is superb. I enjoyed learning about the clothes, the food and the general customs of the time. I found it intriguing that women of this particular time, before the usual pantheon of Greek gods overwhelmed the worship of the Goddess, had a great deal more power and freedom than was usual within Hellenic society. So it’s Martis’s mother who is head of the household and the one to make the major decisions regarding her daughters – particularly as her husband is a slave who makes sandals.

I also liked watching Martis grow up during the story. Arge’s death isn’t the only tragedy to beset their family and increasingly, Martis needs to step up and help her mother. I thought I knew whodunit – and I was wrong. Furthermore, the murderer had a strong motive for their actions that made entire sense, even though it was a shocking act. As this is a series, there are a couple of dangling plotpoints that will clearly need to tidied away in the next book – which I look forward to reading. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries set in ancient Greece. While I obtained an arc of In the Shadow of the Bull from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

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This is the year of Crete: a blog tour made me organise a travel to Heraklion and another blog tour makes me travel to those places I recently visited.
It was a pleasure to read this book as the images of the places, the smells and the atmosphere are still fresh in mind and it was like visiting the places and travel back in time.
This a good historical novel as there’s a vivid and well researched historical background. It bring us to an age when the Minoan civilization was at the top and we get to know Martis, a young women who is poet and a bull leaper in training.
One of Martis’ sister is killed on the day of her wedding and Martis will start to investigate trying to understand who-did-it.
Eleanor Kuhn writes solid mysteries and this was quite good. Martis is a clever woman and she’s able to investigate without being too reckless.
The historical part plays a relevant role as the different people of the Mediterranean area and the continental Greece are featured with their customs and their prejudices.
It’s hard to imagine how it was 3500 years ago, the Minoan civilization is still a bit mysterious as the Linear A, their way of writing, is not deciphered yet. I liked how Ms Kuhn developed her version of this civilization keeping track of what we know.
One note: Martis is 15 and, I suppose, a woman of 15 was a grown up woman even if she acts like a very young woman at times.
I hope to read soon other books in this series and catch up with Martis.
This one is highly recommended.
Many thanks to Eleanor Kuhn, Severn House and Partners In Crime Tours for this digital copy, all opinions are mine

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Eleanor Kuhns immerses the reader in ancient Crete with In the Shadow of the Bull. It's 1450 BC and Martis has sworn an oath to the spirit of her murdered sister Arge to find the murderer. The suspect is the Greek Saurus who was supposed to marry Martis. The background is the bull leaping culture and goddess culture of Crete. Enjoy an interesting historical mystery.

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Ancient Crete, 1450 BC. When her sister Arge drops to the floor in convulsions and then dies at her wedding, fifteen-year-old Martis, a young poet and bull leaper in training, is certain she was murdered.

Having studied the Minoan Period in University, I became fascinated by all things Cretan.
Martis must find out who murdered her sister, her shade continually haunts Martis until she solves this mystery. At the same time she is determined to be a bull leaper despite her high born status and total family disapproval. I found the narrative flowed well and was, at certain points, really hard to put down. Kuhns injects great passion and action in her books. Any reader with an interest in ancient Crete and Greece will love this story, so good. The whodunnit is really unexpected. Thank you Severn and Netgalley for an ARC of In the Shadow of the Bull. Apologies for the delay in reviewing.

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