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Historical Mysteries

11th Century Byzantium
21st Century France

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womeninworldhistory.com

Murder in Byzantium

by Julia Kristeva

This contemporary story is included because of its hefty inclusion of information about the First Crusades and the world’s first female historian, Anna Comnena (1083-1153). whom Kristeva sees as “the leading intellectual of her day.”

The primary character is journalist Stephanie Delacour who has been sent from Paris to the fictional country of Santa Varvara to report on a serial killer busily dispatching members of the Mafia/terrorist based New Pantheon sect. Here she again meets Commisario Northrop Rilsky, who rapidly becomes her lover. While Northrop tracks down the source of the multiple murders, Stephanie researches the mysterious disappearance of the Commisario’s relative, the eccentric medieval and migration historian Sebastian Chrest-Jones. It is Chrest-Jones’s travels following the route of a French crusader which offers the fanciful but intriguing interpretation of the chaotic life and times of Anna Comnena.

This is not an easily read, straight forward story. Author Kristeva, a renowned French intellectual of Bulgarian birth, gives us an erudite, layered, and somewhat abstruse narrative. Intersected with the plot are musings about immigration, migration, globalization, the cultural clash between the East and Latin West, the Bogomil “heresy,” persecuted Jews, devastated Thracian peasants, the Alexiad, Maria of Bulgaria, and so forth. A major theme is the connections between the world and ideas of the first Crusaders to those of today.

Maps of the routes of the French and German Crusaders during the First Crusades included. This is the author’s second book with Delacour and Rilsky as investigators.

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