In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.
But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.
Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.
Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.
The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.
Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.
The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.
“Engel has produced one of the most unusual and affecting mysteries ever.”
“This is a slick mystery, but it’s also a terrific recovery tale.”
The Globe and Mail
“…one of the best Benny Cooperman mysteries yet…Engel does a masterful job…an intriguing perspective.”
Quill & Quire
“A fascinating mystery…”
“Probably his most talked about book in 25 years.”
New York Times
Millionhouse Korea 2009
BUR Italy 2008
Hakurosha Japan 2007
Penguin Canada 2005
Carroll & Graf 2006
A Benny Cooperman Mystery with an afterword by Dr. Oliver Sacks
The most lovable private eye in the business, Benny Cooperman, has suffered a grievous, life-altering injury. He was trying to find a young university professor who went missing, when he received a vicious blow to the head. Benny is thrown in a dumpster and left for dead. When he wakes, Benny is in hospital with no memory of the event, and deprived of the ability to read.
As he works to solve the mystery, Benny copes with a rare condition, alexia sine agraphia, meaning he cannot read, but he can still write. Reading for Benny is Shakespeare and Hawthorne, not to mention Hammett, Chandler and Christie. Writing is only himself. Not much competition there, he says ruefully.
He can quote lines from his high school production of Twelfth Night, but nouns slip from him like an errant bar of soap. His memory book, a three-ring binder where he records important items to keep in his grasp, is his life-line.
With his girlfriend Anna working as field agent, and with two Toronto cops helping, Benny unmasks his assailant. The final scene, worthy of Agatha Christie, takes place in the hospital common room where Benny gathers the suspects.
In 2001 Howard Engel experienced a stroke that resulted in alexia sine agraphia. The condition informs Memory Book, a well-plotted, character-rich who-dunnit, but also a fascinating exploration of the complex mystery of the human brain.
Oliver Sacks, in an afterword, analyzes the rare brain condition and then asks:. “Is the present volume up to the standard of the previous Cooperman novels? My answer, as a reader of detective stories, is ‘Yes, absolutely.’