Assaph Mehr is a software product manager, the author of the best-seller and winner of five awards Murder in Absentia and of many other short stories related to it, the owner of the publishing house Purple Toga and of the website TheProtagonistSpeaks.com. This latter exists to interview books’ fictional characters. How is that possible? By interviewing their author of course! So far, the site has already 88 inteviews, and it keeps making more.
(Click on the photos to see them in their full size)
Mr. Mehr grew up in Israel, and that’s where his passion for history was born. His favourite spot was the port of Jaffa, where layers of cultures could be dug down to ancient Egyptians, with many citadels remaining from the crusades and Ottomans. Currently he lives in Sydney (Australia) with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats, writing his second novel In Numina.
If you’d like to follow Assaph Mehr, here are his links:
If you’d like to learn Assaph’s Secret to success as a writer, you can check out what is considered by the site Lifehacker: “The Complete Guide To Writing Your First Novel“
If you’d like to read his short stories click here.
And if you’d like to buy Murder in Absentia, click on the Amazon’s page down below:
(This review is subdivided in three parts. 1. Plot, 2. Writing Style, 3. The "Verdict")
As all of us know, the most important aspect of a novel is the story and/or stories it tells. The genres Murder In Absentia explores are mostly historical (inspired to Ancient Rome), fantasy and mystery, but truth be told, I believe it is a new genre on its own. As it often happens, “fantasy fiction” is nothing but a mask to explore realities of our modern times, and here the novel makes no exception. What it stands out for among the masses, is that it constantly switches across almost all sorts of genres through its mini-sub-plots, perfectly interwined one with the other.
The main plot starts with a sarcastic and charismatic detective known as Spurius Vulpius Felix, but called “Felix The Fox” as an abbreviation, hired to resolve a murder case without letting the news spread across the city.
A rich merchant’s son died in sinister circumstances… his body covered in tattoos linked to a forbidden, magical rite and his heart morphed into a ruby. In order to resolve the mystery, Felix will have to dig in past contacts he had long avoided, and also make new ones in both the highest and the lowest ranks of society. And that’s when the story truly begins…
- Business deals,
- battles intrinsic with blood and driving descriptions worthy of the best of horror movies,
- and watered wine
are just a little part of what awaits the readers.
The many sub-plots are the driving motor of the story, which at some points seems almost an excuse to display them, until… and that’s the best part of the book, which I’d rather not spoil. All I can say, is that the unfolding of events leads Felix far beyond the city, alternating sparkling waters, caves, green heels, shady brothels, majestic mansions and fast-paced metropolises. And I know that it’s something that almost every novel represents in one way or another, but…
Murder In Absentia is not just a story that makes you travel.
It’s a travel that makes the story.
Despite of this massive creativity, even the best of stories would be worth nothing if telled the wrong way, which leads us to the next part of this review…
2. WRITING STYLE
This book has a weird kind of “magnetism”. While I read it, the richly builded “brick by brick” world of Egretia painted it’s way through my mind, and that’s honestly surprising, for the descriptions are “cutting short”.
The most remarkable fact I can say about his writing style, is its shape and form. Just like for music, what seems like the most simple and catchiest of tunes, usually has the hardest work behind it. Such tracks become the hits later remember as classics, and so applies to this novel.
I do believe that the only descriptions a writer should write are the ones that push the story forward, otherwise the book will get boring really quick, and thanks to Fortuna (Goddess of luck), Mr. Assaph didn’t do this mistake. In the whole book you won’t find a single chance to get bored, for the writer has carefully studied the place for every word, avoiding even the slightest chance of an useless information. But pay attention, this novel is nothing like the short stories he wrote. In the short stories the descriptions were rare and, well… short. On the other hand, in this novel they’re always behind the corner, occupying literally half of the book.
And yet again, you’ll hardly notice them.
That’s why I say they’re “cutting short”. They’re so fluedly fused with the story that all you’ll see will be the dialogues and the story itself. However, their impact is devastating. After I finished reading the first scroll of the book (which is like the first part of a movie, only difference is it’s made of nine chapters instead of scenes), I couldn’t unplug my mind from that world. Wherever I turned, all I “saw” where the taverns, shops and streets of Egretia.
Overall, what has caused this unexpected reaction weren’t just the descriptions, rather it was merit of the dialogues. Of course, I may be wrong, but from my point of view there’s been a lot of research and experiments behind the whole novel, and I’m not referring to the historical kind of research, although it too, has a strong presence. The kind of research I’m talking about is psychological. The author knew exactly what people like and don’t like, turning his novel into one of the best examples of sociology applied to the arts. And although I tried as hard as I could to find a description for this application of psychology, it simply can’t be described properly enough. It must be seen.
3. THE “VERDICT”
Many great novels are usually the ones who use fiction as a metaphor to transmit a deeper message of any sort. But although great, it often risks of getting heavy, repetitive and sometimes even a big cliché. This book does not. It transmits a world marked and bound to the supremacy of the almighty dolla… ehm, denarii (aka ancient roman’s money). It transmits life. Plain pure and simple, yet overwhelming and complicated as few other things can be. That’s what I liked the most. It’s honest, brilliant and extremely entertaining, to the point I can say without a shadow of doubt that this became my N.1 favorite novel, and that it’s one of the best I’ve ever read.
My final verdict is 5 stars out of 5.
And my only regret, or to better say, my only R-Egretia, is that there are only 5 stars to give, for it’s worth at least 100 of them, and most importantly, this book will make you think like few other novels can, and just because of this, without considering:
- the theatrical perfection,
- the intriguing plot,
- the realistic dialogues
- the emotions it transmits,
- and the researches it holds
it’s already worth reading.
MY MOST SINCERE COMPLIMENTS TO ITS INGENIOUS AUTHOR