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Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite
Someone is damaging the Torah “mantle” in the Great Synagogue of Alexandria for no apparent reason. The mantle, part of the ritual objects to enhance the sacred Torah scrolls, contains precious jewels that became loosened by someone who was able to break into the synagogue at night. The gems were not taken, but the damage to the mantle was noticeable and the rabbi needed it to be repaired. It is the sixth year of the reign of Nero and Rabbi Ehud ben Zechariah is frantic as he asks Miriam Bat Isaac to see if she could have the twisted, bent out of shape chains made with precious gems reset with the help of her aloof boyfriend, a craftsman named Judah. But who would sneak into the synagogue at night and deface it in the first place? And why is Judah lately avoiding Miriam, or seems to? Miriam, a brilliant alchemist and amateur sleuth, is determined to find out.
The Deadliest Fever (A Miriam Bat Isaac Mystery in Ancient Alexandria) by June Trop has all the elements of a first-class mystery, filled with colorful and interesting characters, all the while placing the reader right there with the sights and smells of ancient Alexandria under Roman occupation. Follow Miriam as she, with the help of Nathaniel ben Rubin, the diminutive dwarf with a shady history, investigates a possible connection with the defacing of the Torah mantle and the recent mysterious death of a sea captain. Miriam goes so far as dressing up like a local prostitute to find clues in the seedier parts of Alexandria.
I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing two previous Miriam Bat Isaac novels and The Deadliest Fever is one of the best from Trop. In addition to a bit of romantic tension between Miriam and Judah, we also see our protagonist handle herself quite ably in a physical altercation with a prostitute, while investigating the sea captain’s murder. There are flashbacks regarding Miriam’s family, her late father and twin brother that come into play, and a twist at the end of the story that fans will appreciate. The Deadliest Fever is a welcome addition to the Miriam Bat Isaac mystery series.