Monday, May 19, 2014

The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby

The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby --- 330 pages

I enjoy historical fiction in general and historical mysteries in particular, and one of my all time favorite authors is Mary Renault, who inspired my lifelong fascination with the classical world.

I just recently stumbled across a new author in that genre, Australian Gary Corby. The Marathon Conspiracy is actually the fourth book in his series of Athenian mysteries featuring Nicolaos, confidential inquiry agent for Pericles, the power behind the scenes in Athens in the 5th century B.C., and his partner and betrothed, Diotima, priestess of Artemis. The other titles are The Pericles Commission, The Ionia Sanction, and Sacred Games.

Nico and Diotima have come home for their wedding, but first Nico has to collect the commissions owed him from Pericles, who, like many rich men, is remarkably reluctant to pay for services rendered. Then Pericles hands Nico a new commission: investigate the discovery of a long-hidden corpse found with a box of scrolls that indicate the body is that of the last tyrant of Athens, Hippias. When the Athenians rebelled against Hippias and drove him out, he found refuge at the court of Persia, and the Battle of Marathon, famous in the annals of history, was fought between the Persians and the Athenians to prevent the Persians from restoring Hippias to power and subjugating Athens to Persia.

Hippias is supposed to have died in Persia thirty years ago. So how did his remains turn up in a cave near the Temple of Artemis at Brauron, less than a day's journey from Athens? And why were there five scrolls in the box when it left Brauron and only four when it arrived in Athens? What crucial information might be contained in the missing scroll? Then one of the two girls who discovered the remains is killed and the other goes missing from the temple, yet their fathers seem strangely reluctant to pursue justice for their daughters. And Nico and Diotima are working against a deadline here: they have just a month to solve the case before their wedding day.

History and legend are skillfully blended with fiction in this fast-paced adventure, which features appearances by several other notable veterans of Marathon: the great Greek playwright Aeschylus and the Athenian merchant and negotiator Callias, as well as Sophroniscus and Phaenarete, the parents (for the purposes of this series) of Nicos and his too-smart-for-his-own-good younger brother Socrates.  Yes, THAT Socrates.


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