Eyes of Truth

Rating: 
4
Eyes of Truth
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 15-Feb-2002

A version of this review will appear in The Vampire's Crypt 25 (Spring 2002). The Vampire's Crypt web site is: http://members.aol.com/MLCVamp/vampcrpt.htm

Linda Suzane. Eyes of Truth. Twilight Times Books, 2002. $3.50 download. http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com. (Available Feb. 15, 2002.)

Insu was not like other gods, "for he could tell when a man spoke the truth. His sons and their sons, the Insu-has, had the gift and wore the Eyes of Insu tattooed across their foreheads." The Kingdom of Naj is ruled by the Dyamu, who proves through the Trials of Truth that he has the clearest Eyes among the Insu-has. "But despite their great talent, they were just men, some good men, some not."

So begins this novel set in an otherworld a few centuries behind ours in technology but where magic, elementals, and even ghosts play their part. Dar is an Insu-ha with a strong gift of the Eyes and a dark past that prevents him from making the most of it even though he has the favor of the Dyamu, his brother Coiji. Three circumstances bring Coiji's attention to Dak-moon, capital of Funara Province. A gardener dies drained of blood; a strange illness is a matter of disagreement between healer Torren and physician Chismu; and the Insu-ha ruling in Dak-moon, High Magistrate Shoki, lost a large contingent of his household during a recent trip to the mountains and has not sent in a report for the past four moons, which that hints he is up to something. Coiji sends Dar as his personal representative: of all the Insu-has, only Dar would consider a mere gardener worthy of his attention. To assist him, Dar takes Waulo, a woman in her fifties, once an assassin and legal assistant, now a card sharp and possessed of a rare ability: she can lie to an Insu-ha and pull it off.

The plot thickens when the duo arrives in far-off Dak-moon: Dar's Eyes tell him that the man convicted of the murder is not guilty, and Insu-ha Shoki is keeping a mostly nocturnal schedule and clearly hiding something. Interviewing possible suspects and persons who might know more about the crime seems to take Dar further and further afield; rather than finding likelier suspects or hard evidence, the investigation reveals Shoki's interest in blood, the infidelity of one of Chismu's wives, and that a plague is proving fatal to all the pleasure girls who entertain at the High Magistrate's. Shoki may well know something, but for Dar to learn what is another matter. Shoki has always been adept at the game of Truth and Lies; even an Insu-ha of great perception can tell only whether a man's words are the truth as he sees it -- not whether they are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Dar's motives and background get more exposition than anyone else's, but Eyes of Truth doesn't shortchange on development of other characters. Guard Master Joran, finagling orphan Cam, Shoki's half-breed wife Arra, and even Shoki himself get their share of screen time. The narrative incorporates insight into both the culture and the characters through Dar's sometimes self- flagellatory reflections on his past. Other members of the upper class generally look askance at Dar because of his sympathy for the common people, but Dar's lack of pretentiousness leads him to the places where answers are to be found -- a jail, a humble healer's, a house that is truly of ill repute.

And are there vampires? Of course, although not by that name. Dar realizes that Shoki's plan to offer a doubled life span to other Insu-has -- for the right price -- could spell the downfall of Naj itself. Dar's adherence to principle leads to an attempt on his life, and suspense mounts when he must fake his own death and leave the remainder of the investigation in the hands of his allies.

The novel gets its color not only from the more distinctive characters -- tough-tender Waulo, her old friend Rorn, and lively Cam -- but from the setting and even the time of year: it is Ram- sho, the festival of the dead, and the population is very ghost- conscious. To augment the mystique of a universe of exotic language and customs, many terms go undefined: there is, for example, no direct explanation of the significance of spring versus summer versus winter wife. I didn't find this bothersome, but a reader who likes a firmer grasp on a fantasy world might. The universe- specific words give an Asian ambiance (wo-nur, Dolzi, shubon) as does the feudal-like social structure and the common practice (at least among the upper classes) of polygamy. And for those who find the large cast confusing, there is a list of characters and peoples at the end.

Although Dar solves the various mysteries without divine intervention, the meting-out of justice is another matter: Even for a universe of ghosts and gods, the ending is something of a deus ex machina, though very satisfying in terms of who at last numbers among the living or the dead. But this is the only too-facile aspect of what is otherwise a well-wrought and overall satisfying detective novel in a world of a lot less technology and a little more magic than our own.

Fanged Films

USA, 2002
Blood Shot
USA, 1914

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

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Vigil Among the Vampires