A Nicolaos, Ancient Greece Mystery by Gary Corby
Review: The 80th Olympiad of the Sacred Games are about to get underway, and the tensions between the city-states of Greece are high, from both a political and an athletic perspective. So when a top Spartan athlete is murdered, an Athenian and his likely opponent in the most demanding of sports, the pankration, is detained for the crime. Investigators from both Sparta and Athens are assigned to determine his guilt or innocence, in Sacred Games, the third mystery in this series by Gary Corby.
Nicolaos "Nico" is selected as the investigator to represent Athens and Markos is his counterpart for Sparta. Markos is by far the more accomplished in terms of style and skill, made more so by the overwhelming evidence against the suspect, Timodemus "Timo", a childhood friend of Nico's. The Spartan athlete Arakos would not have been an easy person to take down: large in size, nearly unmatched in strength, and yet his body is found battered, his eyes missing. Still, Timo was seen in the area around the time Arakos was murdered, and he had a motive to kill him: Arakos was about to expose that Timo had cheated in a recently held regional games, an unproven accusation that would likely be well received given how easily Timo had won … with Arakos coming in second. When the only eye-witness to the crime dies in a chariot race, Nico and Markos must rely on circumstantial evidence to support their opposite positions … and it seems no matter who is right, war between Sparta and Athens may be unavoidable.
Sacred Games is written in a manner that, at least when considered at first, shouldn't work … but does. The dialog and many of the mannerisms of the characters are quite contemporary though almost everything else about the story is ancient. Indeed, Nico is something of an ancient Greek Perry Mason, prone to courtroom theatrics after his opponent presents what seems to be an ironclad case against his friend and fellow Athenian. Despite the frequently gruesome depictions of what happens during the Games events, the narrative is written with a light touch. A subplot involving Nico and his bride/fiancée Diotimi — their wedding, which apparently occurred in the previous book in this series (not reviewed) and is of dubious legality — provides an often humorous balance to the sometimes mundane, if also necessary, elements of the murder investigation. A most entertaining, if not altogether demanding, crime novel, one that will likely have readers new to the series seeking out the previous books to catch up on what has already happened to date.
A helpful cast of characters precedes the story. An appendix of author notes, well worth reading afterward as they contain spoilers, provides more information on the authenticity of the events in the book, as well as a glossary of terms.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of Sacred Games for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Sacred Games: Athens, Greece
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Sacred Games by Gary Corby — A Nicolaos, Ancient Greece Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: May 2013
List Price: $25.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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