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Archive for the ‘Detective stories’ Category

Gary Corby Singer From Memphis

No, Gary Corby’s latest historical mystery isn’t about Elvis, but strangely enough a king–or more precisely, a pharoah–is involved. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Both Nicodemus and Diotima find themselves up to their rears in alligators–both real and metaphorical–when Nicodemus signs on as tour guide to the scholar, Herodotus. Herodotus wants to write an account of the war going on between the rebelling Egyptians and their Persian overlords which means a fact-finding trip to the Egyptian war zone. Meanwhile, Inarus, leader of the Egyptian rebels, needs a good man for a delicate task and Pericles, Nicodemus’s boss, wants to discomfort Athen’s enemy, the Persian Empire.

It’s international intrigue and adventure on the high seas as Nicodemus, Diotima, and Herodotus find themselves in search of a pharoah’s buried treasure. Can they survive pirates, sandstorms, and Persian assassins long enough to succeed?

Another well-crafted and historically intriguing book in Corby’s Athenian Mystery series.

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Death Ex Machina Cover

“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

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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White Ghost Cover

James Benn’s latest entry in his Billy Boyle series is a flashback of sorts. In 1943, Billy is in North Africa when he finds himself and his friend, Kaz, re-assigned to the South Pacific, specifically the Solomon Islands, to investigate the death of a native Coastwatcher. The chief suspect is a guy Billy used to know back in Boston–Jack Kennedy. Jack’s in the hospital recovering after losing two men and his PT boat on a recent mission. The brass still haven’t decided whether to court martial him or pin a medal on him.

There’s no love lost between the Boyles and the Kennedys which ironically makes Billy the perfect investigator as far as Jack’s father, Joe Kennedy, Sr. is concerned. Joe, Sr. has pulled strings to make sure Boyle is on the case. If he exonerates Jack, Billy is seen as being fair and above the fray. And if he finds him guilty, Billy is seen as pursuing a grudge.  Jack’s a charmer, a womanizer, and a liar, but is he a killer? That’s what Billy and Kaz must find out.

Set against the brutal fighting of the South Pacific campaign, White Ghost is an excellent mystery as well as being a meditation on war.

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The most exciting thing that can happen to a reader is to find a new author they haven’t read yet. That happened to me recently when I picked up a copy of Craig Johnson’s mystery novel, “Junkyard Dogs”. I was so taken with his characters and with the Wyoming setting that I immediately had to go out and buy the rest of the series.

Briefly, Johnson’s series follows the adventures of Sheriff Walt Longmire, the longterm and long-suffering lawman of the fictional Absaroka County, and his band of deputies as they attempt to keep order among the good and sometimes bad citizens of Northern Wyoming. Johnson’s mysteries are good puzzles and humorous, but they are also serious meditations on the problems, both environmental and social, of the West. His latest installment, “Hell Is Empty”, is probably the best book of the series to date. “Junkyard Dogs” is probably the funniest. However, if you want to read them in order, you will need to start with “The Cold Dish”, the first book in the series.

To find out more about Walt Longmire and his creator, check out Johnson’s website here. Under “Books”, you will find both a synopsis of each book as well as a short interview with the author about that particular story. Under “Media”, you will find a profile of the author and several interviews. The video ones are especially worth watching.

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Bi-polar tarot card reader and amateur detective Warren Ritter explains how to match doughnuts to your mood:

Everybody knows the rules: Maple [bars] are for depression, coconut is for focus, and bran muffins are for the idiots who think that eating 350 calories in a sitting makes you healthy.

–David Skibbins, “The Star”

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I’ve been reading a lot of detective fiction of one sort or another lately and thought I would share some of my favorite authors with you:

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Robert Crais–Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels. Best one: The Last Detective. Summary: Crais’ Elvis Cole novels are set in L.A. Cole is an ex-Army Ranger who has set up a detective agency in partnership with his friend, Joe Pike, a taciturn ex-cop/ex-mercenary. Crais is one of those rare authors who simply keep getter better the longer they write. My favorite is “The Last Detective”, a multi-viewpoint kidnapping novel where Cole searches for his girlfriend’s 10-year-old son. Although it sounds formulaic (buddy tough guy detectives solve mysteries), Crais injects both of his male viewpoint characters with humanity, vulnerability, and intelligence.

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Jim Butcher–Harry Dresden series. Best one so far: Toss-up between “Blood Rites” and “Dead Beat”. Summary: Harry Dresden is wizard/private detective living in a modern day Chicago where the supernatural world exists alongside (and is religiously ignored) by our mundane one. Dresden’s mysteries usually have a knotty, magic-related problems at their core. Butcher is another one of those authors who keep getting better as time goes on. Harry grows and changes and the characters keep getting deeper and more multi-layered.

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Terry Pratchett–Guards series starring Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch. Best one to date: “Feet of Clay”. Summary: Commander Sam Vimes and the colorful cast of the Watch (dwarves, werewolves, trolls, zombies, and humans) strive to keep law and order in the sprawling city of Ankh-Morpork, Citie of a Thousand Surprises (many of them armed and dangerous). I like “Feet of Clay” because it gives a good picture of the day to day running of the Watch and as well as being a solid, stand-on-its-own mystery. Briefly, two old men have been murdered and the golems, magical clay statues that do the undesirable jobs in the city, are suspected. The Patrician, Lord Vetinari, has been poisoned and everyone is suspected. And Constable Nobbes is revealed to have a here-to-fore unsuspected noble lineage. It’s up to Vimes, Capt. Carrot, and Constables Angua, Littlebottom, and Detritus to solve the crimes, save the city, and see that justice is done.

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