Tribute of Death by Simon Levack. Although the majority of historical mysteries are set in the familiar western civilizations of Greece, Rome and the United Kingdom (with Egypt being popular as well), history is happening every day and everywhere. One of the most exotic and unusual series out there is Simon Levack’s tales of murder set in the mountains of Mexico in the early sixteenth century. Cemiquiztli Yaotl is a lowly slave who once was in training to be an Aztec priest. As his new mistress and lover, Lily, frequently points out, Yaotl is not handsome and does not possess the strength of the warriors, but his brain is a good one and is really his only tool to escape the dangers from which he constantly seems to be facing. In this fourth adventure, Yaotl’s peaceful exile ends when he is summoned back to the capital city by his old nemesis, the chief minister Lord Feathered in Black. One of the minister’s captains, an elite otomi warrior, has gone rogue and has been threatening Yaotl’s family and friends. Upon his return, Yaotl finds the situation even more dire as the otomi has teamed up with a sorcerer who hides in the shadows and manipulates events.
Levack does a wonderful job of bringing to life the Aztec world. His focus is on the domestic lives of ordinary citizens rather than on the ministers and emperor and he weaves together the domestic concerns of feeding and sheltering their families with the superstitions and religion which were such an important part of the Aztec culture. Lily and Yaotl’s romance is a nice sub-plot and an abundance of interesting secondary characters add to the story, though our hero’s series of escapes can be a bit unbelievable at times. These adventures are well-written and the setting unique to the genre.