“A dead man fell from the sky and landed at my feet.”
–Opening line of The Pericles Commission
Mathmatician-turned-mystery writer Gary Corby has penned five, soon to be six, novels featuring the detective team of Diotima, priestess of Artemis, and Nicolaos, an inquiry agent for Pericles, the leading statesman of Athens. Set in Ancient Greece during the Athenian Golden Age, the novels are both intricate mysteries and an immersion course in Greek culture.
In The Pericles Commission, Nicolaos has a mystery fall at his feet–literally–when the corpse of Ephialtes, the founder of Athenian democracy, lands in front of him. Who would want to assassinate the man who created democracy? As it turns out, quite a few people including Nico’s new boss, Pericles. This book gets my vote for best opening line as quoted above.
The Ionia Sanction finds Nico and Diotima overseas in Ephesus and up against political intrigues in the Persian Empire as Nico investigates the death of one proxenos and the disappearance of another. A proxenos was a citizen of one town who represented the interests of another–kind of like the world’s first diplomatic corps.
Sacred Games, one of my favorites, deals with murder at the 80th Olympic Games. Timodemus, the Athenian pankration (martial arts) champion, is accused of murdering Arakos, the Spartan pankration champion. With tensions rising between Athens and Sparta, can Nico and Diotima find the true killer before real war games break out?
The Marathon Conspiracy revolves around the events that precipitated the creation of the world’s first democracy. Roughly a generation before our story opens, Hippias, a cruel tyrant, had ruled Athens with an iron hand, turning the city into a police state. So onerous did his rule become that the Athenians deposed him and when Persia attempted to put him back on the throne, a small force of Greeks fought and defeated a much larger Persian army at the Battle of Marathon. Fast forward thirty years later. A pair of girls at the Temple of Artemis, the first finishing school for girls, find a skeleton and a set of scrolls in a cave. Soon after, one girl disappears and the other is found dead. Who would kill for thirty-year-old scrolls? Can Diotima and Nico unravel the mystery at her old school before more deaths occur? A special note: Nico and Diotima finally tie the knot.
Death Ex Machina is the latest entry in this series. Nico and Diotima are asked to investigate the case of a ghost who is haunting the Theater of Dionysos. But what begins as a series of pranks becomes much more serious when one of the actors is found hanging from the God machine. A great send up of the acting/theater scene as well as being a look at the status of metics (non-citizens) in Athens.
I highly recommend these books and I look forward to Nico and Diotima’s next adventure.
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