A wry sleuth accompanies a historian on the brink of fame to Egypt, where rebellion, murder, and wisecracks are in full flower in 450 B.C.E.
Nicolaos, “the only private investigator in ancient Athens,” gets a surprise visit from aspiring historian Herodotus. He plans a research trip to Egypt, where, backed by Athens, the locals have risen up against their Persian overlords and need a bodyguard. Nico’s mentor, the politician Pericles, warns him that Herodotus might be a Persian spy but advises taking the job. If Herodotus is a spy, Pericles advises, “kill him.” And so the journey begins, Herodotus accompanied by a large retinue and Nico by his wife, Diotima, a priestess. Their course takes them into the colorful heart of the conflict, richly depicted in Nico’s arch first-person narrative. They run afoul of pirates and require rescue by the Athenian fleet, interview the rebel leader Inaros, who claims to be the prince of Libya, and receive aid from Maxyates, a surprisingly erudite barbarian who claims Troy as his homeland. Nico is none too happy to run into the duplicitous Barzanes, the eyes and ears of the King of Persia, an established nemesis from his previous adventures (Death Ex Machina, 2015, etc.). The murder of a general, tied to the pharaoh’s valuable crook and flail, adds a new wrinkle to the excursion and raises its stakes. Is it just a coincidence that both Barzanes and Max are on the scene as Nico investigates?
Corby's latest is brisk, cheeky, and full of well-researched historical tidbits.