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Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite
The Deadliest Hate by June Trop is a provocative title for a novel, sure to pique a reader's interest. And the storyline lives up to it. In ancient Alexandria, Egypt, in the year 48 C.E. under the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius, Miriam bat Isaac, a talented chemist and amateur sleuth, receives a cryptic tablet (correspondence) from her (hopefully to be) fiance, Judah. This has to do with a secret formula he is working on with his estranged half-brother Eran in Caesarea, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea. The formula is familiar to Miriam who is compelled to go to Caesarea for various reasons, one of which involves a loss of the very formula that was last in her possession. This leads to a series of events that involves murder, family dynamics, and Miriam's relationship with Judah.
In the author’s note at the end of the story, she reveals that the character of Miriam bat Isaac is based on a real alchemist referred to in historical records as Maria Hebrea, Mary the Jewess, or Miriam the Prophetess. In The Deadliest Hate, the author gives color to the character of Miriam as she deals with deceit, treachery, politics, and family issues, especially with a younger brother who has become, of all things, a gladiator in Caesarea. The story flows along from the journey at sea to the port city of Caesarea, with descriptions of places of business, eateries, and the political tensions caused by the Roman occupation. The background of the revolt of the Jews under Roman rule adds to the story in conversations between Miriam and others. I especially liked the dialogue between Miriam and Phoebe, her close friend. The historical detail and use of idiom in describing each scene add to the story. All in all, The Deadliest Hate by June Trop is good historical fiction.