In crime fiction time is the essence of detection. If Whositz says “I was sleeping with my mistress when my wife was murdered” the first thing the detective on the case will do is verify that alibi. If Whositz is seen leaving his mistress’ house by the back alley in time to get home, clock his wife, and return to his mistress’ celebratory embrace, he no longer has an alibi. If, for that matter, his mistress is seen skulking down the street where he lives with his wife just moments before the wife was murdered, the mistress no longer has an alibi, either.

In crime fiction, it is always all about time.

Which makes writing a series set in Alexandria in the time of Cleopatra, shall we say, challenging. Before I wrote a word I had to figure out what time it was, what day it was, what month of what year it was, and what season it was so as to place events properly in context. This is what an Egyptian month looked like then.

Ten-day weeks, 30-day months.

This what the hours of the days looked like.

First Hour was the dawn,
which changed from season to season.

So for the purposes of Death of an Eye, the first Eye of Isis novel, this is the calendar I constructed so as to move my characters about on my plot chessboard in an, ah, timely fashion.

See the extra days. Even the Egyptians knew
there were problems with the way they kept time.

I for one shall always be grateful to Julius Caesar (and Sosigenes) for revising the way the world kept time in 46BC, even if 1600-plus years later Pope Gregory XIII had to revise it again to account for that pesky quarter day that was throwing all the seasons off. Again.

I’m working on a way to work the calendar change into a plot. If Whositz has an alibi for First Hour, Fifth Day, Third Week in the month of Thoth, it does not necessarily follow that he or she has one for 6 am on June 5th, does it. Does it?

Click through the image above to buy the first in the Eye of Isis series. The second novel, Disappearance of a Scribe, is on sale now.

Rabbit holes:
Ancient Egyptian calendar
Julian calendar
Gregorian calendar
US Naval Observatory


Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. One imagines naively that words just flow from the author’s hands. The reality is that to write a quality book the writer must do a lot of research. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights.

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