The Shadow of the Lords by Simon Levack (An Aztec Mystery #2)

Levack returns us to the world of the Aztec a day after his compelling opener finished to find our much put upon and beaten slave sleuth, Yaotl, Nimble's father, stumbling around on a mission to locate the missing emperor's stolen raiment of Quetzalcoatl and find out who killed it's artist, Skinny. Under the ever threatening gaze of the psychotic Captain and Fox, lieutenant of Otomies, he manages to evade his minders and escape into the backwaters to carry out some proper investigating, coming across Skinny's extended family who all seem slightly unhinged and prone to violence. Whilst talking to (and not getting many answers out of) Angy, the uncle to Crayfish who is the father of Marigold, who was wife to Idle, who was twin brother of Skinny, who was married to Butterfly (who's definitely got the psychotic abilities to gain a place in the Otomies) Yaotl finds himself framed for the subsequent murder of Idle, which he didn't commit, and trying to track down the incarcerated Marigold.

Meanwhile, he's on the receiving end of the embittered and very angry, Lily, daughter of Kindly, whose policemen, Upright and Shield continue the theme of manhandling our hero.

To give him some respite his friend, Handy, and brother help him to some kind of reconciliation with his family, inadvertently send him to see Stammerer, priest in House of Tears, who holds the key to the whole thing and get him out of some serious scrapes as he recovers the stolen coat and eventually uncovers a deed so nefarious that's it's quite appalling.

It was only a matter of time before an enterprising author picked the Aztecs as a setting for murder mysteries and Levack has done an admirable job with his tongue-in-cheek beleaguered hero, Yaotl, who squirms his way round Tenochtitlan constantly receiving a beating for his pains. Given he's one of life's great survivors it's no surprise to find a very sharp mind that can pick through the inevitable political intrigue that comes with his lethal cases.

Levack's prose is crisp, his characters brightly painted and always exasperated, his action clean and well drawn. Yaotl is a good addition to the ancient murder sleuth set and hopefully Levack will continue his stories about his wayward but always enterprising hero.

9/10 The prose is crisp, his characters brightly painted.

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