Reviews

Demon of the Air

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Starred Review "Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger Award, this first novel combines an amazingly detailed re-creation of Aztec life, rituals, customs, and belief with a compelling mystery." Library Review

Starred Review "Historical novels, let alone debuts, don't get much better than British author Levack's outstanding effort.. Levack makes comprehensible a society that seems at first glance alien. Sixteenth century Mexico comes to wonderful life in this gripping, multifaceted mystery." Publisher's Weekly

"The adventure proves gripping and always surprising, and uses its historical background to perfection. A most rewarding read." Maxim Jakubowski in the Guardian

"Gripping, thoughtful book... Levack's skill as a storyteller... helps him to imbue his investigative journey through Aztec life with a unique vision" Chicago Tribune

"Refreshingly complex, historically fascinating and highly intriguing." The Bookseller

"Will satisfy every appetite for information about this fascinating civilization" Kirkus

"This gripping murder mystery, set in 1517 and recounted by Yaotl, the Chief Minister's slave, has been meticulously researched, from the historical context of Tenochtitlan on the eve of the Conquest down to the tiniest details of daily life, all within the framework of a fast-moving crime novel.  Even the dry humour is grounded in local culture." www.mexicolore.co.uk

"Pre-Colombian Mexico springs to vivid life in this remarkable novel, and the Aztecs are presented as a fascinating mixture of humanity and bloodlust, artistry and barbarism. Having Yaotl tell the tale in his own words wisely adds an immediacy that the story truly needs in order to ground it somewhat and take away some of the sheer strangeness of such an alien culture. The plot is enjoyably complex and gives another dimension to an already compelling book. I do hope this will be the first of a new series, and it is not hard to see why it won the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Miss it at your peril!" www.myshelf.com (NB the reviewer, Rachel A Hyde, chose "Demon of the Air" as one of her Top Ten Reads for 2004)

"The picture that Simon builds up of Aztec society is complex and fascinating; details concerning food, clothing, the city, religion and slavery are woven cleverly into the story. More importantly the levels of society and the relationships within and between the different groups are clearly delineated. The brutality of Aztec ways is laid bare and the framework of ideas that support this harshness are shown... Yaotl's situation elicits a mixture of sympathy and irritation in the reader which makes him a good protagonist." www.reviewingtheevidence.com

"The characters have the same human flaws we find in the humanity of today. The reader will feel a connection, especially to Yaotl, because even though his external world is very different, inside he one of us. After feeling sure this was a book I would not like, I was surprised to find myself eagerly reading and enjoying it. If you like historical mysteries, I recommend you check out 'Demon of the Air' ”. The Murder and Mayhem Book Club www.murderandmayhembookclub.com

"a vivid and dramatic interpretation of the events leading up to the collapse of the Aztec empire. It combines a very exciting murder mystery mixed with a mordant sense of humour and a firm grasp of the history and culture of the period. A marvellous read and an outstanding introduction for a first-time writer… one of the few novels to vividly recreate and clearly describe the glorious but blood soaked culture of the Aztec empire and its dramatic clash with that of Spain and the Old World." Paul Doherty, bestselling author of the Brother Athelstan series

"Hooked me in five pages. I lost an entire Wednesday reading DEMON OF THE AIR… loved the black humour of the sacrifice… Despite my ignorance [of Aztec culture], the society felt coherent and brutal, without a sign of tainting modern values overlaying the events. Intriguing insights… the main character was fascinatingly complex and unusual… I was very pleased to know there’s more of Yaotl to come." Conn Iggulden, bestselling author of EMPEROR

"The writing is excellent… and given the unusual setting and the intriguing ‘whodunnit’ component of the story, we look forward to the next exploit of Yaotl… I suspect if a series emerges, the wily slave will [become] another favourite historical sleuth." Bernard Knight, author of the Crowner John series

"The tale makes for a neat twist on the historical detective story and is packed full of the atmosphere of an Aztec world at its height… Simon Levack won the Crime Writers’ Association New Writing Competition with this book, which constitutes a formidable debut." The Good Book Guide

"A fascinating glimpse of an alien culture full of surprises in this well-researched mystery" www.mysterylovers.com

"Mr Levack's attention to detail draws the reader into the dark and mysterious world of the Aztecs, from their beliefs and history to the human sacrifices and deadly omens. With a touch of black humour, intrigue, drama, treachery and romance, Demon of the Air is a must-read." Faversham Times

"Levack plausibly recreates the blood-soaked atmosphere of 1517 Aztec Mexico in this absorbing debut... The scene is as blackly funny as it is alien... Yaotl, who reveals bits of his backstory throughout the narrative, is a resourceful, determined fellow with a sardonic sense of humor. The Aztec setting is convincing, strange and thoroughly human even in its religious savagery. Levack provides a suspenseful plot with some neat twists and his writing is lively and colorful. An auspicious debut." Portsmouth Herald 

"[I]t's a choice read for those with inquiring minds, people who like to learn as they are entertained. And Levack, in spite of this being his first published novel, is a good writer with the ability to create suspense and instil a desire in readers to keep those pages turning...  It's a welcome change of pace and a most interesting plot." www.reviewingtheevidence.com 

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Shadow of the Lords

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Starred Review "Levack's second 16th-century Aztec mystery (after 2005's impressive Demon of the Air) is another intellectual page-turner that will satisfy even those with no previous knowledge of the ancient Central American civilization...  The author matches impressive period research with tight plotting and the rare ability to make the inhabitants of a different world and time seem familiar." Publisher's Weekly

"An exhilarating, fast-paced tale that describes in Yaotl's own words all the minutiae of a very unfamiliar way of life.  There is plenty of plot, well-rounded characters and some black humour to make this second book a delight." Historical Novels Review

"Engrossing" South Wales Argus

"This is an exciting, breathless tale full of the meticulously described  intricacies of a very alien way of life along with plenty of plot, some lively characters and yes, I think it will also be one of the stand-out whodunnits for 2005... Highly enjoyable." www.myshelf.com

"The excitement doesn't let down for a moment.  The reader is caught up in the chase and is determined, with Yaotl, to solve the mystery.  The book has lots of action and suspense, and a puzzle that is quite challenging.  Mr Levack certainly gives the reader their money's worth and leaves one with the taste for even more of Yaotl's adventures." The Murder and Mayhem Book Club  www.murderandmayhembookclub.com

"[The Aztec] civilization was indeed different from modern Mexican civilization.  Levack tries to deal with these differences in historical context, and succeeds... the next instalment of Yaotl's story is eagerly awaited." www.reviewingtheevidence.com

"The audience obtains a deep insightful look at the Aztec Empire in the early sixteenth century. Yaotl is a terrific amateur sleuth who seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but has no choice as he follows the clues wherever they lead. Readers will appreciate this astonishingly well written exhilarating tale that is sure to obtain award nominations and make Simon Levack a sub-genre favorite." Harriet Klausner

"The author’s vivid portrayal of the Aztec world really captures our imagination. Fast paced (with no obtrusive clots of exposition to slow us down), evocative, and altogether enjoyable." Booklist (American Library Association)

"Levack has created a memorable detective; this Aztec equivalent of the seen-it-all canny gumshoe barely manages to escape most of the wrath of his owner, Lord Feathered in Black. The author has included helpful explanations, with maps, information on Nahuatl (the Aztec language), and access to the Aztec calendar, but it is Levack's writing that makes it surprisingly easy to find sure footing in this very alien culture. It would be best to begin with the first book; this novel ends with Yoatl facing an uncertain future as well. The book is fascinating." Schools Libray Journal

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City of Spies

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"Brave and original" The Times

"Hapless slave Yaotl is back with a third helping of breathless, black humoured, blood-soaked mayhem in this hugely diverting series... This is another fast paced, standout novel in this wonderfully imaginative series and my verdict of it is a thumbs-up sign and the phrase 'business as usual.'  Expect the unexpected, as Pre-Colombian Mexico springs to vivid life as you have never seen it before outside of a history book or a very good TV documentary.  Having Yaotl tell the tale in his own words was a masterstroke, for it provides an essential window into a very alien culture, grounds some of the more amazing parts, and gives it an immediacy that it might otherwise lack.  The plot is exciting and tortuous, the sort that you need to carefully read every word of, but my favorite aspect of this series continues to be the Aztecs themselves.  Normally they are not allowed to appear unless carefully chaperoned by those conquistadors, rather as if they are not sufficiently interesting to be allowed out on their own.  Now we can see them in all their feather-bedecked, blood-soaked, flowery glory enjoying the party for as long as possible before those pale faced, bearded men arrive and spoil the party.  Highly enjoyable, and worthy of another award." www.myshelf.com

"Slick with entertaining characters and some good turns, this is certainly one for those who like crime novels with a historical setting." The Law Society's Gazette

"At the end there is a very surprising finish... [The author] takes great trouble to make the story intelligible to the modern reader... Levack's well-structured narrative engages the reader's mind into believing the historical basis to this excellent story.  May there be many more stories about Yaotl and the Aztecs" www.eurocrime.co.uk

"This book is a true delight. If you have ever felt any curiosity about the history of the Aztec (or Mayan, for that matter) civilisation prior to the coming of the conquistadors, you could do far worse than to read this meticulously researched book. Not only does Simon Levack present the facts, some of which are decidedly unpalatable, about the old empire, he also tells a very good story to sweeten the pill of history... The characterisations are particularly well done. Yaotl fairly leaps off the page, so convincingly is he drawn and Lily, Kindly and Nimble are equally persuasive. The implications of the advent of the conquistadors, too, are more than sufficient to hone the interest of the reader in subsequent books. While CITY OF SPIES is but one of the Aztec series, it is sufficiently stand alone to satisfy any reader." www.reviewingtheevidence.com

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Tribute of Death

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"These books really are a treat. Not only does Levack win my approval for picking a totally different setting for his whodunits, but he has done his homework to make this surely one of the most entertaining history lessons possible. Pre-Colombian Tenochtitlan is shown warts and all, and this is very much a story about the daily lives of ordinary people and their problems. Yaotl tells the tale, and his matter-of-fact tone gives us an essential window into an unfamiliar culture, where human sacrifice is an everyday thing and people believe in all kinds of gods and spirits to explain the world around them.  Racing in front of this impressive backdrop is the story itself, which hits the ground running and doesn’t let up once. If you have read the rest of the series I can say that this is the same high standard, and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Catch these books quick before those rascally Conquistadors arrive and the Aztecs disappear forever..."  www.myshelf.com

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