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The Eyes of Truth
cover design © 2001 Judith Huey.


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Eyes of Truth

Linda Suzane

  The gods looked upon the world they had reformed and on the creatures they had placed within it and were concerned their work would be destroyed by the barbaric, unknowing ways of their creations. So they sent the God Insu.

Insu brought order with his wisdom and his laws, uniting many of the battling tribes into the Kingdom of Naj.

Insu was not like others, 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.

When Insu’s time was fulfilled, his sons came together in a great Trial of Truth to choose the one who had the clearest Eyes to rule Naj as the Dyamu, for the Eyes were stronger in some than in others. And so down through the centuries, the Insu-has ruled the people of Naj.

But despite their great talent, they were simply men, some good men, some not.



          "Horez take you," Insu-ha Zomo cursed loudly. "I know you're cheating." Zomo threw down his cards. They slid across the polished table to rest against Waulo's folded hands.
        This late at night, the Nu parlor was quiet with only a scattering of occupied tables. Zomo's accusation stopped all play; curious faces turned. Dar tensed, glancing from Zomo to Waulo, ready to interfere.
        "I don't cheat," Waulo said, her gravelly voice low with a threat to which Zomo was oblivious.
        Anticipation charged the air, waiting, hoping for a fight. Dar leaned closer to the table.
        Waulo looked down at her winning hand, the cards laying face up in the middle of the table. Her cold dark eyes blinked once, then twice. The decision made, she smiled, which did nothing to gentle her broad, homely face. "Great sir, I'm as surprised as you that I won. When I bet, I was almost certain I would lose, for you are a strong player. The God Tazar must have walked across my path tonight."
        Dar relaxed a bit. Waulo took accusations of cheating seriously. Men had died for making them.
        She had spoken the truth. She never cheated at Nu. She didn't have to; she was that good.
        Waulo continued, "I'm sure that next time you will win."
        "It's getting late," Dar said, throwing down his own cards on the table. "Why don't we quit?"
        Zomo looked at Dar. "I still think she was cheating. What do you think?"
        "She wasn't cheating," Dar said calmly, hating to get dragged into it. He had warned Waulo against playing with the Insu-has. They were too used to winning. "The Eyes of Insu tell me she is speaking the truth. Don't the Eyes tell you?"
        Zomo glared at Dar. The colorful tattoo that proclaimed Dar an Insu-ha ran across the width of Dar's forehead and possessed five eyes among the swirls and curlicues. Zomo's didn't reach across his forehead and only had three eyes. He didn't like Dar's insinuation that he might lack the Eyes to perceive the truth of Waulo's words. He turned to the other player of the foursome, Insu-ha Emmir.
        "What do you think?"
        "Tazar didn't just walk across her path, he stomped on it. I've never seen such luck."
        Zomo grinned, sure that Emmir was agreeing with him.
        "Surely as Insu-ha Emmir says, it was only luck," said Waulo. "For I have rarely played against such challenging players. You're both very skilled."
        Zomo looked for a moment as though he was going to challenge her statement, then he subsided back on his cushion, believing her. Dar smiled.
        Waulo didn't cheat, but she certainly could lie. Not that the Eyes of Insu told him she was lying. No, he couldn't tell. But then neither could the others.
        "Come on, old woman," Dar said, "let's go."
        "No," Zomo said. "Another round. My luck is bound to change."
        Waulo hesitated for a moment, obviously weighing her purse against future winnings.
        "Waulo," Dar warned.
        "The Insu-ha is right, it's late, and I am an old woman. I need my rest. I'm not young like you."
        Waulo was approaching fifty, her black hair liberally streaked with grey, but her squat body was muscular and strong, well honed, compared to the pampered softness of Zomo and Emmir. Dar was twenty-four, Zomo and Emmir maybe five or six years older. But Dar would match Waulo against either one of them for stamina and strength.
        And she was more than a match for them in deadliness for, though long retired, as a young woman Waulo had followed her father's trade as an assassin. She still possessed the instinct and the skills.
        "Dar," Emmir called after them as they were leaving, "what we talked about before. My winter wife really wants you to paint her portrait."
        "I'll think about it. Now that I'm the head of the family, I don't have as much time to pursue my other interests."
        "I would consider it a great favor."
        Dar and Waulo emerged from the ahabu into the predawn darkness of the quiet street.
        "I appreciate that you didn't kill the fool," Dar said.
        "I didn't think your brother would approve."
        Dar laughed. The Dyamu Coiji, Dar's brother, most certainly would not approve.
        They walked home together in companionable silence. Around them, Dar sensed the great city of Suterama begin to stir, as the servants rose to prepare for another busy day.
        The gatekeeper, watching for his master, had the gate open when Dar and Waulo reached it. He bowed low as Dar entered.
        The grand house had been his father's before he died two moons ago, naming Dar his heir and therefore head of the family. There had been many, including Dar, who were surprised. They had expected his father to choose his younger son, the Dyamu, rather than the disgraced elder son.
        Dar wondered if his father had known that Dar had cheated during the Trials of Truth and let his brother win, let Coiji be named Dyamu in Dar's place.
        Had his father understood the uncontrollable rage that had driven Dar to take retribution on Insu-ha Nito for beating and mutilating the beautiful So, Maku? To do precisely to Nito what he had done to the woman Dar loved. That might have been all of it, but Nito's wounds became infected and he died.
        Had his father forgiven him the shame brought to the whole family by the resulting scandal? Was naming Dar heir his father's way of making amends? Or a way of forcing Dar to do what his father considered his duty as an Insu-ha? Dar had never asked, never talked to his father about it, and now that his father was dead, he never could. Still, he was curious. And at times, he heartedly resented the burdens of responsibility that had been shoved upon him, especially Ravra.
        He glanced toward her pavilion. It was his duty to honor and care for his father's winter wife, along with his father's other three wives, but Ravra had once been Dar's spring wife, until she betrayed him. In his anger and disappointment he had fled, afraid of himself and what he might do. Abandoned, Ravra had convinced his father that marrying her was the only way to preserve the honor of the family. Had his father understood what had made Dar forsake his position, his family, and flee Suterama?
        A warbling cry from the throats of the watch dragons bugled through the stillness. Then the ground began to shake. Dar, thrown off balance, grabbed Waulo. As quickly as it came, the earth tremor was gone. Stillness returned. Dar stood poised, expectant, but after a moment, relaxed. Just another earthquake.
        "Something bad is going to happen," Waulo proclaimed solemnly.
        "That's just superstition," Dar said. "It was an earthquake. They happen all the time. It doesn't mean that something bad is about to occur."
        "Little do you know, boy."
        Dar sighed. He knew better than to try to argue Waulo out of her superstitions.

* * *

        Po hurried across the courtyard as fast as his fat body would allow. The sun rested on the horizon, a round golden ball far too bright for him to look at. For the first time he could remember, he had overslept. Already the cookfire should have burnt down to glowing coals, the daeshi boiling in the big kettle. He knew he would be beaten if breakfast was late, yet he stopped to bow in front of the garden shrine, sending a prayer to the house elementals that the slumber that had held him in its spell would also hold the master. Perhaps the gods would smile upon Po. Had he not brought a garland of orange and yellow leaves from the nazo tree to decorate the shrine of Ata, mother of all gods? And just last moon he had given a large koy-sen cooked in sauce to the priests of Nosawee for their feast day, and he always remembered the house elementals with gifts of cakes.
        He placed his palms together, fingertips touching his forehead, and bowed three times to the elementals, then hurried on. Perhaps the elementals had heard his prayer. Usually Oen, the gardener, rose with the light to work in the garden, but he was not to be seen. The garden lay quiet and still, only the trilling of birds greeted the sun.
        Po rushed to the stone-built okomi, which stood behind the kitchen area, to grab a fresh bag of daeshi and a haunch of xylo that had been curing.
        The only light was from the door and the small windows placed high up under the eaves, but he went unerringly into the dimness, not bothering to light the lamp. He grabbed the small bag of grain and turned toward the back corner for the haunch of meat, when the smell hit him. He knew it for what it was, after all he had slaughtered enough animals to recognize the smell of blood.
        He saw the shape of an animal carcass hanging from one of the ceiling hooks, but in the darkness he couldn't tell what it was. He fumbled for the lantern, lighting the wick, before turning back to see.
        It was as naked and bloody as an animal carcass, but it wasn't an animal. It had been human.
        A rope tied about the waist looped over the ceiling hook; arms, head, and legs dangled down. Long slashes scored the calves and forearms, and the hands and feet were red with blood.
        The body turned slowly as it dangled, and Po saw that it was Oen.
        Beneath the body sat the large kettle that Po used for rendering. Po watched as a drop of blood slipped from a fingertip and fell. It seemed to take forever until it splashed into the pot. The sound rang so loud as to deafen Po. Then he heard his own voice screaming. He could not stop.
* * *

        Raku picked up the ten-day report from the Master of the Guard in Dak-moon and read of the murder in distant Funara Province. When he finished, he picked up his stylus and carefully inscribed his mark and the date upon the page. His brow furrowed and he bit his lip in concentration as he worked to get the symbol just right.
        Raku sat on pillows at a low desk in a room in Suterama's great Hall of Records. Floor-to-ceiling shelves held boxes, each marked with the name of a town or place in Funara Province. Raku knew everything that happened in Funara Province. It all came here to be read, marked, and filed. This document belonged in the Dak-moon box. He had lived near Dak-moon, and on market and feast days, his whole family traveled there. He didn't like Dak-moon now because its box was on the top shelf and beyond his eleven-year-old arm's reach. He would be forced to call one of the adult servants to reach it.
        With his perfect recall, he reviewed in his memory the contents of the Dak-moon box. There wasn't much, for the previous clerk had retired only four moons before. All that remained in the box were deeds, records of honors and grants, and a few unresolved matters like the reports of a mysterious illness. To that, was now added a murder, a particularly gruesome murder. The young boy, which in truth he still was, thrilled to the detailed description of the death of Oen, the gardener. Shivers ran up and down his spine at the thought of a deranged killer stalking his prey, then bleeding it dry.
        Then Raku realized something was missing from the box, something important. He was almost afraid to tell, for he should have noticed its absence sooner, but he was more afraid not to tell.
        He hurried down the corridor to where the master clerk sat ensconced on pillows behind another low desk. Raku trembled as he bowed. "Great sir, I beg to report something of concern about Dak-moon."
        The master clerk frowned. "Where is Dak-moon?"
        Raku blushed, realizing that though they had met, the master clerk didn't realize that he was now the clerk for Funara Province. He mumbled the words.
        "Speak up." The master clerk waved his stylus at him.
        "Funara Province." The words echoed about the room, sounding way too loud to Raku's ears. He blushed in embarrassment.
        "Tell me, child," the master clerk said, his tone softening. "What have you found?"
        Raku looked down at his feet, afraid to look at the master clerk. "I have no excuse for my laxness."
        "Don't worry. It takes time to learn to be a good clerk. Mistakes are made, but you have come to tell me, and that is how it should be. We can rectify whatever has happened."
        Encouraged, Raku told him what he had just realized. "For the last four moons we haven't received a report from the Insu-ha Shoki, High Magistrate of Dak-moon. I didn't notice, not at first, because there weren't any, not since I became clerk." He knew he was babbling.
        "There's no mention of any problem in the Guard Master's ten day reports?"
        Raku shook his head.
        "It's strange," the master clerk said, then he smiled. "But not all that uncommon. Insu-has are not known for being report writers."
        Relief flooded through Raku.
        "Still, it is important. Is there anything else?"
        "Today, the Master of Dak-moon's Guard reported a body was discovered, murdered, hung above a pot, and drained of all blood."
        "A sad business, but why have you brought this to my attention? Was there a request for assistance?"
        "No, Great sir."
        "Well, then, why?"
        Raku was surprised that the master clerk didn't find the matter of a murder important. Of course, the master clerk must hear of murders all the time. Raku felt foolish and struggled to regain what he had lost.
        "One moon ago, a local healer, Torren, begged assistance from the medical college to discover the cure for a mysterious illness that has killed many."
        "You have communicated the request to the medical college?"
        "Yes. Along with a note of censure from Physician Chismu, in which he claimed that Healer Torren exaggerated the problem and didn't follow the proper protocols."
        The master clerk looked at him expectantly. Raku continued, "It's just that the man who died was a member of Physician Chismu's household. In his request, Healer Torren accused Physician Chismu." Raku closed his eyes and brought the document into his mind's eye, quoting exactly from it. "Physician Chismu's continued refusal to recognize the seriousness of the problem threatens all of Dak-moon and possibly all of Naj. All cures fail. People are dying."
        "I see. You were right to report it."
        Inwardly, Raku gave a sigh of relief. He had been right to report it.
        The master clerk continued, "I doubt that the murder and what appears to be a rivalry between Physician Chismu and this healer are connected. Still, this Torren has made a serious charge. I believe the problems in Dak-moon should be reported to the Dyamu."
        Raku swelled with pride as he bowed. An event in his province would have the attention of the Dyamu, ruler of all Naj.
* * *

        Insu-ha Coiji, the High Judge and Arbitrator, the Dyamu of Naj, tried not to look bored as the master clerk droned on. He longed for the daily report to be over. He leaned back against the carving of the high-backed audience chair and tried, unobtrusively, to shift back and forth, hoping to scratch an annoying itch. His secretary, Hakoni, saw the slight movement and frowned, the corners of his mouth matching his long drooping mustache. Coiji found himself responding to that frown like a small boy caught daydreaming by a stern teacher. He straightened. Then he stopped himself. He was the Dyamu and had been for six years. He was no longer a frightened 14-year-old, unsure of himself. Still, he returned his attention to what the master clerk was saying.
        "In Dak-moon of Funara Province, there are troubling circumstances. A murder, a gardener was killed and drained of all blood. The city is also plagued by a mysterious illness." At least it wasn't floods or food shortages. "And we haven't received a report from the High Magistrate in four moons."
        Coiji was disappointed. He didn't care that a magistrate hadn't bothered to write a silly report. Hakoni continued to take notes. Coiji saw the tip of the man's tongue at the corner of his mouth, as though he was concentrating hard, but it was an old signal from the time he had first become Dyamu. It told him to pay attention to this matter.
        "Who is the Magistrate?"
        "The Insu-ha Shoki," the master clerk responded.
        Now Coiji understood Hakoni's interest. "There's no indication of a problem?"
        The master clerk shook his head.
         "And what does the Guard report?"
        "Nothing regarding the Insu-ha, Dyamu. If his greatness has no more questions that concludes my report."
        Coiji glanced at his secretary, wondering if there were more questions he should ask. Hakoni put his brush down and folded his hands across his stomach. Coiji took that as a signal and gave a wave of dismissal. The master clerk bowed his way out of the small audience chamber. Once the doors were closed, Coiji gave up all pretense and vigorously scratched his itching shoulder blade, ignoring the fact that his nails snagged the delicate embroidery of his ceremonial robe.
        With a sigh of relief, he turned to his secretary. Hakoni had served his father and now Coiji. In the last six years, Hakoni had grown an elder's beard. The wispy, grey-streaked chin whiskers were long enough to reach his folded hands, a respectable length. His drooping mustache, which Hakoni kept trimmed to half the length of his whiskers, was still coal black. Coiji wondered if Hakoni judiciously helped it to remain so dark. "So, old man, what are you thinking? Should we do something about this murder?"
        "It's more disturbing that Insu-ha Shoki hasn't sent his reports. He may be planning something."
        "If Shoki was, as you say, planning something, he'd be sure to send his reports so we wouldn't suspect. Is this one of your little feelings or do you have other information that makes Shoki suspect?"
        "Nothing new, but as you say, perhaps a hunch. When the master clerk spoke of Dak-moon, I felt a sense, well, of heaviness, darkness. I can't recall ever having such a feeling. It is most puzzling."
        Hakoni was famous for his hunches. His little feelings he called them. Coiji's father had learned to listen to them, after encountering several disasters when he ignored Hakoni's warnings. Coiji always listened.
        "I will send a Hand," said Coiji.
        Hakoni grabbed a fresh sheet of paper and poised the stylus above the blankness.
        "Send for my brother, Dar."
        "My Dyamu!" Surprise and doubt filled Hakoni's voice. "Is he a wise choice?"
        "A perfect choice."
        Hakoni frowned, Coiji grinned back playfully. He held up his hand, counting his reasons on his fingers.
        "First, I can't send anyone but another Insu-ha to investigate Shoki." Another finger joined the first. "Name another Insu-ha who would be willing to travel so far without complaint on such minor matters as a few missing reports and the murder of an unimportant gardener." He put up the third finger. "Dar will care passionately about justice for this gardener and will search for the truth, no matter where it leads."
        Hakoni's dark eyes acknowledged the truth of Coiji's statements.
        "A wise choice, my Dyamu."
        "Stop lying to me. I can always tell."
        Hakoni sighed. "It's just that sometimes your brother cares too much about the wrong things and too little for the consequences."
        Now Coiji frowned; anger tinged his voice. "Insu-ha Nito deserved what Dar did! Must that scandal haunt Dar for the rest of his life?"
        "It's not easy to forget that Insu-ha Nito died."
        "But Dar didn't kill him," Coiji objected. He rose and stalked the length of the room and back. "Not four moons ago, Dar and Waulo saved my life. If not for them, the assassin would have killed me. Surely, if people knew, it would change their opinion."
        "No," Hakoni said firmly. "It's better that the matter remains a secret. Your brother agrees."
        Coiji frowned. He had wanted to award his brother a medal so that the whole court would know his brother's bravery, but both Hakoni and Dar had told him no. "If I can't reward him in public, at least I can make him my Hand."
        "There are those who would use Dar's reputation against you. If he makes a mistake, it's you who will suffer."
        "He won't make a mistake. I know my brother. He will find the murderer. If Shoki is up to something, as you suspect, you must agree that Dar and Waulo are the ones to uncover it."
        "You can't be thinking of sending Waulo!" Hakoni protested in alarm.
        "Waulo will make an excellent legal assistant. She's well versed in the law."
        "Well versed in criminal pursuits."
        "Her husband was an advocate, and so was she."
        "I would hardly call her an advocate. She helped him on occasion. Surely, someone more experienced. Someone who has previously assisted a Hand. Someone who understands the difficulties of being a Hand and can advise your brother."
        "Waulo is very qualified; besides, she has other skills." Hakoni paled. Coiji grinned impishly. "Not that she'll need them."
        "I should hope not!"
        "Moreover if I send Waulo with Dar, I may avert a financial crisis within my court. Far too many of my subjects have lost to her at Nu, including, I believe, you."
        Hakoni looked guilty. His eyes no longer met Coiji's. "The god Tazar favors her too often. I'm sure she's cheating, but I can't figure out how."



"The Eyes of Truth" Copyright © 2001. Linda Suzane. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.




Author Bio

Linda Suzane is pursing her lifelong dream to be a full time writer. Her passions include vampires, murder, and mystery. Her first ebook is a romantic mystery about a murder mystery game designer whose mystery game goes murderously wrong. The Murder Game is available from Linda enjoys designing her own mystery games and is currently working on three games, one based on the game in The Murder Game.

When not writing about murder and mystery, she is writing about vampires. Her vampire fiction can be found at She is currently working on a series of vampire novels.

Sometimes she combines her interest in murder, mystery, and vampires as she did in her novel Eyes of Truth, a fantasy mystery which includes two different breeds of vampire the Wo-nur and the Dolzi, pitting mythical Wo-nur against the stark reality of the Dolzi, exploring how legends and superstition can terrify, but reality can destroy.

Linda considers herself something of an Internet explorer, seeking to know and conquer this new frontier as an eBook author, content provider, and web designer. She teaches a class at her local college, "Write and Publish Online." She lives with her husband of thirty-three years on the beautiful Oregon coast with four domineering cats and an office full of dragons.

More information on her writing can be found at her web site.




Author News

A Romanian language version of Eyes of Truth is now available from Editura Eminescu of Bucharest.

Ochii adevarului
Linda Suzane
ISBN 973-22-0976-4

Un univers de vis, unde magia si feericul exista la tot pasul: colturi uitate de lume, viitor mitic, lumi paralele. O intalnire cu imaginatia genului cunoscut drept Fantesy, un gen la fel de vechi ca insasi literatura. Vechi si iarasi nou. Mereu extraordinar!



In the Kingdom of Naj, natural disasters, murders and plagues are the norm in the remote province of Funara. For the most part when death walks the street of the provincial capital of Dak-Moon, the ruler of Naj, Cojii leaves it up to the locals to deal as best they can although he possesses the gift, like all descendents of the god Insu, of the Eyes of Truth that enables him to detect when someone lies.

Normally the homicide of a gardener would be ignored by the monarch. However the circumstances of the death concerns Cojii as potentially a new illness that drains the blood has arisen; more immediately worrisome is that High Magistrate Shoki visiting the area has not reported in four moons as required. He sends his brother Dar to investigate accompanied by retired assassin and expert liar Waulo. Dar quickly realizes the convicted killer of the gardener is innocent. Soon he and Waulo follow a path that leads to Shoki, who apparently is "studying" blood while a plague decimates the pleasure girl population.

Like many epic fantasy tales, the vast cast may seem overwhelming at times even with a character list and the use of one or two syllable names, yet fans will not care once Cojii sends Dar on his mission. The complex entertaining storyline combines a mystery-like investigation and elements of a legal thriller inside a fantasy saga. However, the talent of Linda Suzane is to insure her audience believes in the Gods and their descendents with the abilities to perform the paranormal whether they contain innate lie detector genes or professional mendacious skills.
Reviewed by Harriet Klausner for Midwest Book Review.

Eyes of Truth is a remarkable fantasy with a unique setting and memorable characters. It breaks every cliche of both fantasy and vampire novels without hesitation, and the result is sheer brilliance.

Eyes of Truth weaves a powerful tale of desire, greed, corruption, and love. The characters are deeply human, and the reader can easily relate to their conflicted lives even as horror unfolds around them.

If you are tired of cookie-cutter fantasies and vampire novels without any bite, then Eyes of Truth is for you. In a setting reminiscent of ancient China, Ms. Suzane's characters explore both the darkest and brighest regions of the human heart. The result is a story that will hold the reader spellbound.

Elaine Corvidae, award-winning author of Winter's Orphans and Wolfkin.

The Insu-ha, a dynasty of divine descent rulers in the Kingdom of Naj are blessed with metaphysical insight. The eyes tattooed to their foreheads attest to the power the Insu-ha possess. Playing cards with an Insu-ha probably means you will lose. Not so when Insu-ha Zomo plays nu with former assassin Waulo. Insu-ha Dar is sent as Dyamu Hand for his brother to check out a recent strange murder in Funara Province. Dyamu Cojii tells Dar to take Waulo along. Not so much because her specialty is needed as he hopes to protect his people from her card playing skills.

Dar who is known as a champion of the poor and oppressed along with the again Waulo soon are embroiled in a wild rollicking adventure in Dak-moon in the border province of Fanara. Dar’s old nemesis Magistrate Insu-ha Shoki rules Dak-moon with an iron hand. Waulo’s second specialty, the ability to lie undetected to the Insu-ha will prove to have great value as Dar and Waulo unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of a servant. The esoteric Dolzi, Shoki who sleeps by day and is seen only at night, ghost sickness no one can explain all figure in the enigma Dar must untangle. The answers he discovers horrify and nearly kill him. Bugling watch dragons are kept busy as their sensitive natures realize impending dangers.

Writer Linda Suzane has again produced a work of monumental facility. The mythical world Suzane has created in Eyes of Truth is filled with a broad spectrum of characters, localities, morés and situations. All are designed to carry the reader along on a wild ride of excitement. From the opening line when Insu-ha Zomo confronts Waulo right down to that last paragraph as Raku the young clerk for Funara province reads through his report of activity in the region the reader is presented with dynamic dialogue, powerful action and potent predicaments.

Writer Suzane wisely offers a list of characters, along with explanation of the various localities found in her created world. The morés of the land are interwoven within the well wrought tale author Suzane has crafted. Eyes of Truth is sure to hold enormous appeal for those who enjoy thrilling adventure interwoven against a well developed fantasy background.

Good Read: Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Molly Martin, author of The Inspector's Wife.

Eyes of Truth by Linda Suzane: Four Shadowstars

"This book is one terrific piece of work; part whodunit, part fantasy thriller, part Adventures of Marco-Polo-ish, and all interesting. Insu-ha Dar is the brother of the reigning Dyamu and is sent to Dak-moon, the capital of Funara Province to investigate a murder. His longtime friend, Waulo, accompanies him, and Waulu’s skills as a former assassin turned legal advisor come in handy when confronted with the Machiavellian goings on in this far away Province. The characters are vividly brought to life with interesting and diverse personalities, good, bad and ugly, and the search for the killer snatches the reader along at a lively pace.

I couldn’t put this book down and cannot say enough good things about it. The Asian (to me the culture leaned more towards Chinese) yet alien theme is as rich as Asian cultures are supposed to be, exotic, daring and a little frightening at times. Dar cannot be lied to, but the killer may very well be another Insu-ha that can mask his lies so cunningly as to confuse the Eyes of Truth, and when Dar arrives in Dak-moon the killings don’t stop, they accelerate... and the bodies are drained of blood...

Enough. I agonized over including some additional juicy tidbits but I don’t wish to give any of the intricate plot away. Suffice it to say there are twists, turns, and bloodsuckers galore.

...And I’m dying to read the sequel because there simply must be further chronicles of Dar, Waulo, and this delightful land. Writers like this deserve your support, they deserve it big time people, so don’t fail them or we’ll be forced to send the Fanboys around at Holiday times to sing outside your house.

Reviewed by Bob Yosco for Shadowkeep Magazine

"In the fantasy land of Naj, an oriental kingdom prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, murder and sickness stalks the streets of the backwater province of Funara, especially the city of Dak-Moon. The descendents of the god, the Insu-ha, have been given the gift of knowing when people are lying, the gift is known as the Eyes of Truth.

The ruler of Naj, Cojii, appoints his brother, Dar as his Hand to go and investigate the murder of a gardener found with his body hung over a pole and drained completely of blood. Even with Eyes as strong as Dar's, it is difficult to find the murderer. Other things are happening too.

There is a sickness and the healer Torren is convinced there is a plague of some sort, and Dar discovers that all the victims had one thing in common. They had all been to the magistrate's palace for his entertainments...

There is a bit of everything in the book, adventure, romance, horror, mystery, but closely woven together into a coherent whole. Dar is a well rounded character with shades of grey and incidences in his past that haunt him still, the ideal tortured hero.

This is a great story, well crafted and a bit more unusual than most fantasy books I've read. There are no goblins and trolls here, but different entities just as interesting, if not more so. The world comes alive and the characters are well drawn, jumping right out of the page. You care what happens to them and I for one would like to read more adventures set in the world of Naj.

A fantastic read."
Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of Writing the Dream available from Ms. Gisby is also editor of Twisted Tales webzine.

"In the exotic Kingdom of Naj, the dynastic rulers of divine descent, the Insu-has, have the gift of metaphysical insight, a gift the power of which is attested to by the number of eyes tattooed across their foreheads. In the city of Suterama, Dyamu Insu-ha Coiji rules because he has won in the Trials of Truth, a competition that his older brother, Insu-ha Dar, should have won but purposely lost.

Dar is the unorthodox member of his family. A subject of much gossip because he is blamed for the death of a man he trounced for having beaten, raped, and disfigured Dar's favorite so-ree at the local water house, he is also known as a champion of the poor and the disadvantaged. He is a well-traveled exile of many trades and much experience, so when trouble arises in Dak-moon in the border province of Fanara, administered by Magistrate Insu-ha Shoki, an old antagonist to Dar, Dyuma Coiji chooses Dar as his Hand to investigate.

Dar accepts the mission but takes with him a retired member of the Assassins Guild, a tough and canny older woman named Waulo, who has the singular ability to lie successfully even to an Insu-ha. In Dak-moon, they discover gruesome murders; numerous mysterious deaths from an undiagnosable ghost sickness; a negligent and reclusive magistrate who sleeps by day and walks by night; cryptic seers and gorgeous femme fatales; town talk of dangerous night creatures, the Wo-nurs, and the inexplicable Dolzi, supposedly long dead but now seemingly alive and looking for new recruits or new victims; numerous myths and superstitions; and bugling watch dragons who are sensitive to impending dangers, both bodily and spiritual.

Ms. Suzane has woven a richly complex tale, teeming with intrigue and danger, peopled by distinctive characters with unusual motives, strange appetites, and a thirst for deadly pleasures...."

Reviewed by Pat H. Fredeman, author of Paradise Regained.

"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.

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.... 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 [beginning].

... a well-wrought and overall satisfying detective novel in a world of a lot less technology and a little more magic than our own."

Reviewed by Cathy Krusberg, The Mad Bibliographer, for The Vampire's Crypt 25 (Spring 2002).

Five stars

In the kingdom of Naj, all was as normal as normal could be. Raids from the Ratri were still common across the borders, but life went on in the city of Suterama, capital of Naj, which was far from the borders. Insu-ha Coiji, the ruler of Naj, ran a fair but tight ship, requesting reports from each province on the status of his holdings. It is through these reports that something strange appears. In the province of Funara, the Magistrate's reports stop. Even worse, news of scores of people dying is reported by Torren, a healer. The appointed doctor, Chismu, plays down the reports, insisting nothing is wrong

A murder in the house of Chismu attracts the attention of a clerk. It is not the murder itself that peaks his attention, for murders happen each day. It is how it happened. The body is found hung upside down and the blood drained. But why would the fact that there are no reports from the Magistrate tie into the murder, and why would the Ruler of Naj send his most trusted truth seeker to the province over a murder? Is there something more sinister happening?

One of the tests that I use on a novel is how the story comes back to me when I put the book down. Do I forget about it or does it remind me to go back to the story. In this case, I must admit, that it invaded my mind in almost everything I was doing. The story captivated me and drew me back time and time again. At first, I was actually intimidated by the awkward names and almost didn't want to read it, but after my mind grew used to the names, I was stuck. This is once of the rare books that sticks in your mind days and even months after you read it. A must read at all cost.

Reviewed by Ken Mason for Scribes World reviews.

Linda Suzane takes us to a fantasy version of an Oriental civilization that is ruled by those with the special Eyes of Truth (trade from Twilight Times Books), the ability to tell when someone is lying, though not if they believe their lie. Dar, one of the ruling clan, is sent to a far province with his retired-assassin, widow, assistant Waulo who has the unique ability to lie to those with the special talent. A dead gardener was found with all his blood drained. At the heart of the problem is the corruption of the high magistrate – who has become infected with the disease of the dolzi, a sexually transmitted disease that has vampiric effects on the few who survive the disease. Dar and Waulo have to discover what is going on, difficult because the disease was limited to a small, hidden community. But the numerous deaths from the disease have put the city on edge at a season when ghosts are supposed to walk. This was a neat tale with a surprising ending and I hope that there will be more puzzles for Dar and Waulo to solve.

Reviewed by Henry L. Lazarus for University City Review and the newsletter of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.

Eyes of Truth is a well written enjoyable tale that flows easily and keeps the tension right to the very end. It is good to read a story that is not set in the usual pseudo-medieval world that is favoured by so many other authors. I particularly loved the use of Japanese honour and ceremony.

Reviewed by Lesley Mazey for The Eternal Night





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