Death Comes by Amphora
Review: With a combination of scholarly research and highly creative imagination British author Roger Hudson has fashioned a believable and highly readable story in Death Comes By Amphora, a murder mystery that could as easily happened in Greece's Golden Age of Athens as in modern America.
Hudson admits in an author's insightful afterword that not much is known about the times in which his novel is set so he has used a certain degree of literary license to create the settings, the atmosphere, the characters and even the events he interweaves into his plot. It is a masterful job with references to the city of Athens' known landmarks, to the Greek gods and goddesses, to historical icons, and to characters with Greek names and their interests in the politics of the day. And in the middle of it all are the central characters, "18 yesterday" Lysanias, now a designated citizen with a vote, and his older slave and mentor, Sindron. As it turns out the pair could easily have been the prototypes for Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in their reliance on observation and deductive reasoning to solve the murder of Lysanias' opulent uncle Klereides, done in by a huge shipyard amphora falling on him when he is lured to the docks late at night for a meeting with a stranger. While some believe the death to be an accident, especially those who might profit by it, Lysanias follows the clues, and tracks the suspects he believes have placed profit ahead of justice. With Sindron as his assistant and a sounding board for his theories, he mingles with business leaders, mixes with politicians and generals, and sorts out the good from the bad among his relatives, including a belligerent cousin and his domineering grandmother, Makarias. He reserves a couple of trysts for his own exploration with the 15-year-old wife of his uncle whom he is now obligated by custom to marry, a custom he is quick to embrace, literally as well as figuratively in a couple of lively scenes. In addition to the intrigue over the uncle's death, there are concerns and physical clashes between the lower classes of artisans and workers and the elite, ruling class, causing further conflict for Lysanias who straddles both camps, formerly as an artisan and now as a wealthy tycoon. Sindron as well brings his cartload of conflicts, torn between loyalty to Lysanias, his dipping into his master's funds for a risky venture and the lure of easy money for spying upon him for bankers with motives of their own. In the end loyalty to friends and to family wins out with Sindron occupying a place of influence in Lysanias' new household after a murder has been solved, a political resolution to it being accepted by Lysanias even though Sindron's "sense of rightness, of justice would be outraged he knew." And in the final paragraph there's a door, or should we say a portico, left open for a sequel or two with the Athenian dynamic duo.
Sometimes told from the point of view of different characters, but always consistently true to the plot, atmosphere and setting, Death Comes By Amphora is a first-rate history/mystery, complete with credible maps of the Athens and the Agora (city market place) of 461 BC, a list of characters with the names in italics of those who were known real people, and the author's two-page historical note about the history used in the book.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (email@example.com) for contributing his review of Death Comes by Amphora.
Acknowledgment: Roger Hudson provided a copy of Death Comes by Amphora for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Location(s) referenced in Death Comes by Amphora: Athens, Greece
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Death Comes by Amphora by Roger Hudson
Publisher: Twenty First Century
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: September 2007
List Price: $12.95