On The Horns of Death

An Ancient Crete Mystery

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Pub Date 2 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 14 Jun 2024

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Ancient Crete, 1450 BC. Young bull leaper Martis finds Duzi, the newest member of the bull leaping team, dead in the bull pen early one morning. Made to look like he met his end on the horns of the bull, it's clear to Martis that this was no accident . . .

Martis once again finds herself thrown into a dangerous game of hunting down a murderer as the deaths start to mount. An old friend of Martis' sister, and possible lover to Duzi, is the next person to be found dead, and Martis' investigations lead her to believe love and jealousy are at the heart of these crimes against the Goddess.

Is someone targeting the bull leaping community? Or is there something else at play? With only the Shade of her sister Arge to confide in, Martis struggles to untangle the growing web of secrets which stretches around her.

Ancient Crete, 1450 BC. Young bull leaper Martis finds Duzi, the newest member of the bull leaping team, dead in the bull pen early one morning. Made to look like he met his end on the horns of the...

Advance Praise

“This complex, character-driven mystery is loaded with fascinating historical details”
Kirkus Reviews on In the Shadow of the Bull

“This complex, character-driven mystery is loaded with fascinating historical details”
Kirkus Reviews on In the Shadow of the Bull

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ISBN 9781448310883
PRICE US$29.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I really enjoyed reading ‘Shadow of the Bull’ and was excited to continue Martis’ journey in Ancient Crete in ‘On the Horns of Death’.

The story picks up around 7 months after the concluding events of ’Shadow of the Bull’ and I think reading it first definitely enhances the experience of reading ‘On the Horns of Death’ especially in the establishment of the setting and Martis’ family and surrounding characters. Like the first book, there are very detailed descriptions of the environment, regalia and general appearances that really evokes the images associated with Ancient Crete and the surviving scenes we see on the Palace of Knossos today. Additionally, Martis’ character has been built upon and she has seemingly grown and matured after the events of book one and her advancement working with the bulls. What I love about this book is that as much as it is a murder mystery novel, the characters are well fleshed out and developed, with women featuring prominently instead of 2D side characters.

The murder-mystery element is established really early in the story and the mystery was woven into the story with new and existing characters really well. I honestly had no hunch on who the murderer was, I was really intrigued and compelled to finish the story and get answers. I do wish there was a bit more closure at the end, I felt it was very abrupt.

Thank you to NetGalley, and the publisher Severn Press, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review, these thoughts are all my own.

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An exciting tale about bull leapers in ancient Crete. Good and well drawn characters and a page turner. What more can a reader ask? I recommend the novel highly. Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for giving me a copy of the book.

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After falling down the Cozy Mystery hole, I've come to expect a certain formula and location for these types of books. So I was extremely interested in a mystery that was similar to the cozies I loved but set in Ancient Crete! Having actually been to Knossos a couple of times, the location was already familiar to me. But the author brought life to the ancient ruins with an amazing and diverse cast and a puzzling mystery to solve. It's hard to review a book like this without giving away the ending so I'll just say that I loved the main character and how she worked her way though the various clue and suspects. The supporting cast was fleshed out enough that you actually care for them and I'm very interested in seeing follow up books that would expand on these people.

My only concern? I need more historical information! Thankfully the writer added some at the end but I still wanted to get a bit more information about the ancient Minoan practices. Maybe even a map of Knossos as it would exist in the novel?

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I missed the first book but no matter- this cozy (no other term for it) set in ancient Crete is just as enjoyable as a standalone. Mattis, a bull leaper searches for the villain who killed a new addition to team and finds some tangled secrets. I liked the atmospherics and learning a bit about the time period. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A easy fast read from an expert at historical mystery.

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Once again, Martis finds herself at the heart of an unexplained death, when she is actually the person who discovers the first body in very distressing circumstances. While the plotting and the quest for the murderer has to be one of the narratives driving the story in any whodunit – this time around, I find I’m equally entranced by all the details surrounding Martis’s everyday life.

I have visited Crete and the palace of Knossos, albeit back when Noah was knee-high to a hen, so reading a story in that setting is a joy, particularly when it’s done as well as it is here. One thing that stood out for me is that everyone generally is getting everywhere on foot. No leaping on a horse/stagecoach/motor bike to rush to wherever you need to go. This affects the pace a bit – but means the young protagonist is extremely fit and that as people age, their infirmities bite a lot harder.

Martis is only sixteen, very headstrong and restless while trying to discover what it is she wants in life. What she doesn’t want is to settle down, get married and have children, which immediately makes her a bit different from the majority of young women she knows. However, I liked the fact that while she’s unusual, she isn’t regarded as some freak. Women had a lot more choices in the Minoan civilisation as they were the ones who held property and men married into the matriarchal family. Teenagers from historical times tend not to be as air-headed as their modern peers, because everyone grew up far more quickly in a time when the life expectancy was a lot shorter. So if you tend to avoid teenage protagonists because you don’t want the angst, it’s dialled down here. That said, Kuhns hasn’t made Martis act like a responsible thirty-something, either. I think she’s got the balance just about right.

The bodies stack up and Martis finds herself finding out a lot more about her dead sisters and their friends as she sets about trying to discover who’s doing the killing and putting a stop to it. Once we got to the denouement – the killer wasn’t who I was expecting, but it wasn’t wholly satisfying for reasons I don’t want to go into here, because I’d be lurching into Spoiler territory. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the vividly depicted world Kuhns has woven and would be very happy to revisit it. Recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of On the Horns of Death from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

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This is a good series that makes you meet the characters you see in the Micenean frescoes. Well plotted and compelling, a travel in time and space that kept me guessing and reading.
Martis is a likeable character and the historical background is fascinating.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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More Dangerous for Bull Jumpers Than The Bulls

Martis is late and hurries into the caves below Knossos. She smells blood as she enters. The bulls are agitated, especially the one chosen for today’s ceremony. The bull had damaged the side of its pen. She could not force herself into the circle of older male jumpers. She goes around them and peers through the damage. She lowers herself to see through a larger gap for a better look. She sees a bloody body that has been gored and stomped. Their trainer calls for someone to get Tinos, who serves as the chief administrator of Knossos. When he arrives, he is shown to the body. He asks if anyone recognizes the body. No one does. Martis looks, but his face is too damaged. The body is wearing a kelt, not just a loincloth, as bull jumpers do. She recognizes kelt. It is Duzi, a fellow bull jumper. From this death, Tinos starts the official investigation. Martis starts a more productive unofficial investigation.

This novel has only one main storyline: Martis’s unofficial investigation. While she is more productive in gathering information than Tinos, he does not want her to help and repeatedly tells her to stop. Her mother is also very insistent that she stop investigating. They both fear for her life if she continues. This pressure and continuing murders didn’t create tension at a level that captured my interest. The murders kept occurring, but none of the evidence led to any suspects. Martis thinks two bull jumpers are the most likely suspects, but definitive evidence has not been found. My interest is finally captured late in the novel. It was at this point that I could not stop reading.

Martis is an extrovert, and her personality is very evident. She is fast approaching the age when she will no longer be a child but an adult. Marriage is expected, and she must decide on the trade for the rest of her life. She wants to follow Artemis, not marry, and does not want to be a weaver. Supporting her in making these decisions is revealed in Martis's discussions with Arphaia and a B-storyline thread involving Martis and the healer, Despina. This aspect was an enjoyable aspect of this novel.

I did not see anything that would raise concerns about intimate scenes or language in this novel. There are murders, but descriptive violence doesn’t occur until the novel's end. It does not rise to the level available on prime-time television. I found it valuable reading this novel on an e-reader with Internet access. This access allowed me to learn more about the meaning and details of some ancient Cretan/Greek words. This novel is the second in the series, but it is my first read of this series. I did not find any references to that novel that did not have adequate backfill.

The aspect of this novel that troubled me the most is as I wrote above. All the ingredients were there to capture my interest, but I needed to be stronger to get the job done. What I liked is that it is set in ancient Knossos. I have read only two novels of that era, both dealing with Theseus and the Minotaur. I did enjoy this more personal view of the people of Knossos. I did like that after Martis couldn’t work out the motives, it all fell together without any loose ends.

This is the first novel by this author I have read, so I have not decided yet on a rating. If you enjoy reading ancient historical novels that are also cozy mystery novels, this novel may interest you. It was not up to the novels I rated as a four, but it also didn’t have issues severe enough to assign a three. I chose to assign it a four.

I received this novel's free prepublication e-book version through NetGalley from Severn House. My review is based solely on my own reading experience of this book. Thank you, Severn House, for the opportunity to read and review this novel early.

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