Melissa Yi could slice your throat and sew it back up again. Legally. Because she's an emergency doctor. In her spare minutes, Melissa writes the Hope Sze medical thrillers about Hope Sze, a resident medical doctor who solves murders as well as speculative fiction and memoir.

Scorpion Scheme by Melissa Yi

What if a Cairo man dying before your eyes might hold the key to millions of dollars in buried treasure?

Dr. Hope Sze drops to her knees outside the Grand Egyptian Museum, desperate to save a now-comatose 87-year-old man with a nail through his skull.

Dr. Tucker believes this man may lead them to the legendary Kruger Millions, a fortune in gold that many believe to be secretly stowed somewhere in South Africa.

Since Tucker and Hope's combined student debt load totals almost half a million dollars, Tucker can't pass up the possibility of buried gold.

So they launch into their first mystery based in a birthplace of human civilization.

Where the evil god Set battled righteous Horus and Isis in an 80-year war.

Where Antony fell in love with Cleopatra.

Where Hope and Tucker must outwit, or fall prey, to a ruthless criminal mastermind.

 

REVIEWS

  • "Scorpion Scheme is top-notch historical crime fiction with a fabulous kick-ass female protagonist. The kind of book that you just can't put down. Scorpion Scheme is Robin Cook meets D.J. McIntosh's fabulous Mesopotamian trilogy but it delivers a stingingly good tale all on its own steam."

    – Lisa de Nikolits, author of The Rage Room
  • "Flat out incredible. Set against the sands of Egypt, Dr. Hope Sze and her fiance Dr. John Tucker go to Egypt and hope to see the sights, but they are drawn into a fight for their lives and a mysterious treasure. I loved this book so much! I was drawn into Hope's adventure and taken on a thrill ride that came to an explosive conclusion. This is a fantastic book and really made me take a deeper look into the idea of justice, what is right and what is wrong. [On] my Best Books of 2020 list!"

    – Jamieson Wolf, author of Little Yellow Magnet
  • "One of the many reasons Dr Sze's adventures ring so well is the author's obvious gift for relating the medical information aspects of the novel with veracity, underling the credibility of her character. But it is the wit, humor, and romantic touches that align the novel with the ancient history aspects of Egypt and the intriguing mysteries unfolding that make this novel special. A first class book deserving a side readership!"

    – Grady Harp, Top Shelf Magazine
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Ninety minutes before our world screeched to a standstill, I hauled my suitcase outside the Cairo International Airport and squinted as the Egyptian desert wind desiccated my eyeballs and whipped the ends of my black hair into my face.

John Tucker laughed and pushed a strand behind my ear. "You okay?"

"I'm alive." Hard to believe that we'd landed safely on the opposite side of the world from Canada, near the only remaining seventh wonder of the ancient world. I didn't want to jinx it.

"I am magnificent!" Tucker spread his arms wide, relishing the mild January afternoon sun. Not to mention his own magnificence.

I leaned back to make sure he didn't knock off my glasses, but I couldn't help smiling and shaking my head at the pale skin of his neck and his wheat blond hair. Sometimes, I found it hard to believe that I'd ended up with such a milky dude.

Tucker called up to the wisps of clouds in the blue sky overhead, "We could climb Mount Sinai! We could visit the Valley of Kings and Queens!"

I adjusted the back pack straps digging into my shoulders and double-checked the suitcase between my legs. "We could figure out what happened to Youssef!"

Ms. Isabelle Antoun had assured us that a guide named Youssef would meet us at the airport and that our one month medical elective would be perfectly arranged by Sarquet Industries, a health care software corporation. What on earth had happened to him, or them? I slipped my iPhone out of my pocket, checked my blank notifications, and called Youssef. Again.

Then I left a voice mail. Again.

Tucker kissed the top of my head while I sighed and hung up. He said, "He'll be here any minute. Let's get him to show us Cairo before we get stuck in the hospital. You know how I was bummed to miss the coffin of Nedjemankh at the Met last year? Well, it's being repatriated here next week. Plus we could go see King Tut's sarcophagus. He had three coffins. The innermost one was made of solid gold. Or we could watch the sun set behind the great Pyramids of Giza. We could rent a felucca and sail the Nile. My friend Reza says he knows a guy who could set us up."

"Maybe the Pyramids." They'd drawn me here, even though a free trip to Egypt sounded too good to be true.

Tucker wrapped his arm around me and smacked a kiss on my cheek. "Thanks for trusting me on this, Hope. A free trip to Egypt. How could we turn that down?"

"Free lunch," I said. As in, no such thing as.

"Gift horse," he replied with an extra arm squeeze. Meaning, No looking in the mouth.

Isabelle had refused to tell us why Sarquet Industries had picked us for a free visit. Why me and Tucker, two no-name family medicine residents halfway through what used to be called an internship?

Sure, she'd handed us platitudes about Sarquet's commitment to worldwide health through excellence in electronic records, patient registration and billing (snooze), Egypt's doctor shortage (true), and the relationship between Egypt and China (huh?).

When I'd told her that my background is Chinese, but I'd never been there, she'd waved the maple leaf flag. "Egypt and Canada have been friends since the Egyptian revolution in 1952. You will always be welcome in our country."

Right. But they weren't treating 30 million Canadians to a free trip. Only us. Very strange. I gave Tucker a one-armed hug before releasing him, minimizing public affection out of respect for a predominantly Muslim country. "It's weird that we can't find Youssef. You'd think he'd meet us at the gate with a sign, like in the movies."

"I know," said Tucker, but he closed his eyes and leaned into the sunshine, so obviously besotted with Egypt that I gave in and sniffed the air.

It smelled flowery rather than the usual stench of airplane fuel and cleanser. It smelled the way you might imagine Prince Edward Island might smell, if you only saw the red sand in pictures. Is it possible to smell the desert?

"Beautiful," I conceded, and Tucker's smile widened, even though he kept his eyes closed.

We must've taken a back door out of the airport, because I'd expected touts ushering us into overpriced taxis, but I only noticed a few men in uniforms, including two in military garb, who barely glanced at us Canadian tourists, the white guy and the Asian woman hauling our own back packs and suitcases.

But why, after a night flight from Montreal to Vienna and a second flight to Cairo, had no one come to meet us?

After a full minute of fresh air, I broke the silence. "You think Youssef's looking for us at a different door? Did he text you?"

"Not yet." Tucker frowned and checked his messages. "But at least we have our SIM cards."

Ah, the SIM cards. Shortly after we landed and bought our Egyptian visas, Tucker had led me to a booth for local smart cards to avoid roaming phone charges from Canada. The SIM cards took forever because they photocopied our passports and made us sign agreements in Arabic. Tucker had said that from what he knew of Arabic, the paperwork looked legit.

"Youssef will find us. I texted him a picture of us. He won't be able to miss your outfit." Tucker grinned, crinkling his eyes. "In a good way."

"In an E. Coli way." Pre-visa and SIM cards, while taking turns at the airport bathrooms, my toilet hadn't flushed properly. When I'd pushed a second lever at foot level, assuming that the wall button was broken, the toilet had sprayed me with water from chest to feet.

Luckily, Tucker had been waiting (and laughing) outside the bathroom with my dry suitcase. I'd switched into a fuchsia T-shirt, a red hibiscus sarong, and dry sandals.

"Tucker." I waved my hand in front of his face before he started to hee haw too much at the soggy plastic bag tied to my suitcase. "If we can't connect with Isabelle, Youssef, or Sarquet Industries, we'd better come up with a Plan B."

"That's true." He grinned at me. "Good thing I've got one. My friend Reza came through. His grandmother lives in Giza. He said we could stay with her tonight."

"Uh, Tucker, Isabelle sent us our hotel listing and the name of the hospital we'll be working at. Shouldn't we stick to the plan?"

'Course I would've been more fond of the plan if Isabelle or her designate had met us or answered our calls.

And I got tachycardic at the thought of having to pay for the hotel myself. Med school tuition is bankruptcy-worthy, resident doctors made almost no money, and my student debt literally kept me up at night. What if, in addition to ghosting us at the airport, Isabelle and Youssef transferred us the bill for the entire trip?

Tucker's slightly bushy eyebrows knitted together. "This is a better plan. One apartment in hand is worth two hotel rooms in the ether, right?"

My jet lagged brain took a few seconds to figure out that he was making a joke about a bird in hand, two in the bush, and maybe a reference to the burning bush while he was at it.

"Reza says his grandmother will love us, and she makes the best ta'ameya." At my blank look, he said, "That's falafel to you, only made with fava beans, and full of spices."

My stomach gurgled on cue. "Is Grandma expecting us?"

Tucker grinned. "And that is why you're the woman I'm going to marry."

"Because I'm hungry all the time?"

He winked at me. "Passion, baby."

I winked back, even though I was pretty sure passion would be out of the question in Granny Reza's house. Still, I adored Tucker's encouragement in my quest to eat any and every food. One friend's mother said she'd never marry a guy who had smaller thighs than hers; I'd never marry a guy who shamed me over my appetite. "So we'll take a taxi? I've always wanted to see the Pyramids. Not sure if it's near the zoo, but … "

Tucker rolled his suitcase to the left. "The buses should be over here."

I'm not a snob. I take public transpo all the time. However, in a foreign country, schlepping around my toilet clothes and shoes, after travelling for 14 hours, I yearned for the most direct route. "How would we know we were on the right bus?"

"I'll ask." He'd already made it halfway to a line of blue buses.

Almost everyone at the airport had switched to English upon hearing his Arabic. How should I say this tactfully?

"Right. I am. It's just—" I gestured at my soggy sack of clothes, because who'd want to haul that around? Plus I'd been warned that guys may grope you on a bus, although not so much if you're with a man.

He pinched the end of his slightly long nose. "I don't think a taxi will get us there any faster than a bus, but I can get one if you really want, Hope."

Now I was the global warming bad guy, even though we'd both hopped a transcontinental flight. "Okay, okay. We can take a bus to Giza. But you have to make sure it's the right one."

"I'm on it!" Tucker tried to flag down the first bus, ignoring the fiancée trailing behind with wet rags (me).

I tried not to miss my ex, Ryan Wu, who would have lifted my back pack off my shoulders and hailed a taxi before I opened my mouth. He's classy like that. But I couldn't stay mad at Tucker, who was like a Golden Retriever, all but sniffing the air and wagging his tail at the closest human.

"I knew Reza wouldn't let me down," said Tucker.

"Yay," I said, trying to sound genuinely enthused. I mean, after all, if it hadn't been for Tucker's worldwide network of friends, we might have had to crash at the airport. Was that even legal? I was pretty sure the Egyptian police would arrest hippie squatters, or at least move you to the closest hotel.

"Plus it's free. And buses are cheap!"

That made me laugh. At least he'd snagged one with air conditioning as a concession to my tender sensibilities. It was weird that they'd left the transparent plastic covers on the seats—you know how they cover sofas when you buy them? Like that, only thin, ripped plastic.

The driver, a man with greying curls and small, wire-rimmed glasses, waved me toward the seats.

Tucker spoke to him and told me, "Oh. We're supposed to sit down first and then pay."

Huh?

"I think it's so that we don't slow down boarding."

Too late for that, but when in Cairo. I shoved my suitcase into the first empty two-seater and swung myself beside it, my legs twisted askew. Although Tucker's legs ended up blocking the aisle, men carefully stepped over them, smiling. No threatening vibe at all, even though I was the only woman on the bus.

Passengers passed money up to the bus driver, who managed to drive and make change as he looped out of the parking lot.

Once we left the airport grounds, he turned on Arabic music, and several men bobbed their heads in time. I cautiously joined them.

As we oozed through traffic toward Giza, Tucker drummed on the empty back of the seat in front of us.

I stayed pretzeled into even less space than on the airplane, thanks to our luggage. But Tucker smelled good, more yeasty than usual, as I nodded off.

"Babe. Hope."

I murmured in protest.

"This bus ends at the Hotel of Horus. We have to walk to Abdul Munir Riad Square and change buses."

All I understood was "bus ends." I whimpered, but I shook myself awake like it was yet another night on call.

I trusted Tucker to lead me off the bus to the next stop. The Hotel of Horus looked like your typical extra-tall white skyscraper. A few brave palm trees lined the busy street. Three women in head scarves chattered and crossed the street away from the hotel and toward—was it, could it be—

"I think that's the Nile." Tucker pointed in the distance.

"Holy crap! The Nile River!" I couldn't see much besides cars zooming on a bridge and men talking on their cell phones, but still. I'd read Death on the Nile on the plane.

We bumped our luggage toward a bus station with a bright yellow and blue sign featuring a fit, bearded man grinning in front of a bus. People passed us, chatting on their cell phones. Cairo appeared not so different from Montreal at first glance, except the Egyptian flags adorning a smaller hotel's columned second floor.

Two young people in jeans and T-shirts listened to hip hop, judging from the music leaking out of their headphones, but more than half the women covered their heads, and a man with a long beard wore a full-length grey tunic. Cool.

The wheels on my suitcase seemed clogged with dirt and hair, which made it harder to roll over the paving stones under our feet and onto a second bus.

All the seats at the front were full. I nodded at a woman with four children. A grandmotherly type with a head scarf spoke impatiently on her cell phone. At least four elderly men dominated the front benches, their heads bent in intense conversation.

Tucker and I found seats near the back, but we had to shove our suitcases most of the way in and rest our legs on top of them. My feet practically rested in my mouth. "How much further?" I asked Tucker.

"Not far, not far."

Someone's phone rang. I didn't recognize it as Tucker's until he contorted himself to pull it out of his jeans pocket. "Oh, hi, Youssef. What? You're at baggage claim? We missed you, maybe because Hope got sprayed by a toilet—"

I straightened up, my eyes now open and accusing.

Tucker ditched his smile fast. "Um, Dr. Sze had trouble with the airport plumbing, and we couldn't get a hold of you, so we're taking a bus to Giza—oh, you want us to get off? Where?" He craned his neck. "I'm not sure exactly where we are. We changed buses at the Abdul Munir Riad Square. I think we're coming up on the Egyptian Museum. Hang on, I'll open a map—"

I reached for my own phone. Wow, Youssef! We finally got a hold of Youssef. He could drive us to the hotel.

I glanced out the window at the setting sun. No Pyramids in sight. I pressed the home button on my phone to bring up a map.

And I felt, as much as heard, a boom that rocked the bus and punched my eardrums.