For our The Only One in the World anthology, author L.J.M. Owen wrote "Prince Ha-mahes and the Adventure of the Stoned Mason," and here she talks with us about her Egyptian-set tale.
What is the most unexpected tidbit you learned while writing your story?
I’ve studied ancient Egyptian history for years, with a focus on female pharaohs. While I’d delved into the millennia of bureaucracy that ran the empire's government, until now I hadn’t investigated its police force.
I was surprised to learn that by the time of the New Kingdom, when Prince Ha-mahes and the Adventure of the Stoned Mason is set, there were umpteen police departments and specialised officers, including dog handlers.
I could envision a New Kingdom police officer, standing to attention in the necropolis of Saqqara beside his canine partner, and the maxim, ‘There’s nothing new under the sun,’ sprang to mind.
What was your favourite thing about writing for The Only One in the World?
I loved how readily Holmesian traditions and ancient Egyptian history came together. I could see myriad possible cases for the world’s only consulting Medjay to investigate.
What is quintessentially Egyptian about your Holmes and/or Watson?
In addition to lacking the misogyny of some neighbouring cultures, this Holmes and Watson share an unshakeable belief in the ancient Egyptian system of accessing eternal life.
It began with being born on Egyptian land, continued with a life-long requirement to avoid 42 sins, and ensuring that once you passed your body was prepared for burial in highly specific ways. After you were laid to rest, you faced 42 tests or judgements.
If, and only if, you met all requirements could you then spend your days with family (i.e. similarly deceased relatives) and your nights at rest in your tomb. The alternative was a horrifying eternity of lonely damnation.
This belief system shaped much of daily lives and, in this respect, Prince Ha-mahes and Wab-sunu are ancient Egyptian to the core.
More about L.J.:
Dr L.J.M. Owen is an author, librarian and archaeologist with a passion for reclaiming women’s history. The host of TAF’s Booklove Tuesdays and director of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival, L.J.’s novels include The Great Divide with Echo, and the Dr Pimms archaeological mystery series: Egyptian Enigma, Mayan Mendacity and Olmec Obituary.