A CHOICE OF MURDER by Peter Vansittart


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A closer look at Timoleon of Syracuse--most fortunate in virtue of all Plutarch's heroes--in a first US publication for this prolific British author. The great crisis in Timo's life comes early, when he confronts his casually contemptuous older brother Timophanes, a bold warrior who's become known as the Despot of Corinth. Though Timo had once saved Timophanes' life in the heat of battle--a bit of heroism for which he'd received neither reward nor acknowledgment--he kills Timophanes when he refuses to forswear his tyranny. Spurned by his mother and the state, Timo is sent into a 20-year exile--then abruptly besought by a mission in rebellion against Hicetas, leader of the Leontine forces occupying Syracuse. With the help of such trusted advisors as Apelles, leader of the rebellion, and Theodotos, a savagely misanthropic cynic he'd met during his exile, Timo goes from strength to strength, repulsing the Leontines, purging Syracuse of mercenaries, and finally pushing on to a great victory over the Carthaginians at Crimesus. But all his successes, from his reputation as the Liberator of Syracuse to his extraordinary acclaim in the defeat of Carthage, remain strangely static and distant here--even Vansittart's big set-piece, the battle at Crimesus, glides by like a massive frieze--until the aging, revered Timo lapses imperceptibly into the reverie of disintegration that his civic virtue has been portending from the beginning. ""The craft of survival is in endlessly surprising oneself,"" says Timo--a remark worthy of Plutarch's own sententiousness, and indicative of Vansittart's concentrated, enigmatic, and elegantly cumulative portrait.

Pub Date: Jan. 16th, 1993
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Peter Owen/Dufour Editions