Sheen on the Silk

The Sheen on the Silk

by Anne Perry

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, with smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry.

Anne Perry is best known as the author of over 40 Victorian era mysteries, but in her latest book, she jumps in the time machine and heads to a place so exotic even its name sounds unreal: Byzantium. Was that a real city? Or was it like Xanadu or Shangri-la? It was — and remains — real enough. We’ve heard a bit about the Crimea in a couple of books this year, and that’s where Byzantium was located. You might know it by its more contemporary name: Istanbul (not Constantinople). It was situated on an absolutely vital shipping lane between Europe and Asia and seems to have perpetuated its own metaphor by becoming a potent blend of Eastern and Western culture. In the 13th century as this book begins, the city is Eastern Orthodox and determined to stay that way, much to the displeasure of Rome, which had sacked the city the first time not 60 years before. The Byzantine distrust of the Pope — or Popes, as there were I think 13 of them in 15 years — was well earned.

So there’s a history lesson and we haven’t even gotten to the plot, which brings a young woman, a doctor, to the city looking for her missing brother. Who better to gain entry to all those dining rooms and bedchambers than a eunuch? In Byzantium they practically ran the city. So, that’s Anna’s disguise, and one more exotic, long gone lesson.

There is so much to love in The Sheen on the Silk, with blood feuds, plots and schemes right alongside passionate discussion of faith and theology. For those who love their costume and furniture-porn, there’s plenty of that, you’ve also got your sex and violence, lots of politics, and to top it off a rather delicate but quite satisfying love story. I felt smarter for reading this book, and how often these days do you get to say that?

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