Doherty’s feminine side

In the last few years, Doherty has given up on using pseudonyms, but during his peak prolific writing period of the 1990s, he used several names, both male and female.  Sometimes I think it was simply because no one would believe he could write as much as he did in so short a time frame.  In addition to the fictionalized accounts of real-life mysteries written under his own name, he also did a series of books as Ann Dukthas.  The first of these, A Time for the Death of a King, is the best and looks at the strange death of Lord Darnley, the Scottish king consort to Queen Mary.  Husband and wife were frequently estranged and Darnley’s death at the hands of assassins in 1567 has never been fully explained.  The series continues with The Prince Lost to Time, an examination of the possibility that the French Dauphin did not really die in 1795, and The Time of Murder at Mayerling, which details the death of the Hapsburg Prince Rudolph and his mistress in 1899.  The final book in the series, In the Time of the Poisoned Queen, brings readers back to the turbulent 16th century and the poisoning of Mary Tudor in 1558.

The common character throughout the books is Nicholas Segalla, an immortal, time-traveling investigator who poses in whatever role best suits the situation.  In one book he’s a special emissary of the English government to France; in another a papal envoy or a Jesuit priest.  Each of these real-life mysteries is quite complex with political intrigue as well as personal quarrels.  Doherty, as Dukthas, does his usual admirable job of capturing the time and character of each setting and presenting the historical details of each case in an interesting way.  I was sorry to see this series end, but Doherty tends to bounce from one idea to the next quite frequently, a habit that is both endearing and frustrating to his followers.

Another series with a female pseudonym that ended too soon in my opinion features Alexander the Great immediately after the assassination of his father, Philip of Macedon in 336 B.C. and continues during his eastward conquests a few years later.  The first two books, A Murder in Macedon and A Murder in Thebes, were written as Anna Apostolou and introduce the brother-and-sister sleuthing team of Miriam and Simeon Bartimaeus, two Israelite friends of Alexander.  For some reason, Doherty stopped using the false name for the last three books of the series, The House of Death, The Godless Man and The Gates of Hell.  He also switches from the Bartimaeus pair to Alexander’s physician, Telamon, as the reluctant principal investigator now that the army is on the move.  As is frequently the case in his books, Doherty uses people intimately near to a famous historical person, but still on the fringe, in order to present the details of these worlds and personages from a different perspective.

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