A richly atmospheric murder mystery.

Revenge in Athens

FROM THE FILES OF LYSIAS THE LAWYER

A lawyer in ancient Athens defends a man on trial for murdering his wife’s lover in Garnett’s (I, Paris, 2013) historical novel.

The real-life fourth-century B.C.E. Athenian advocate and speechwriter Lysias is the main character in this fictional tale; his life was chronicled by Greek historian Plutarch, and his works, in part, still survive today. He’s a logographos—a person tasked with transforming the raw facts of his clients’ courtroom cases into perfectly balanced speeches to sway a jury. Although readers will be familiar with the concept of a jury trial, Garnett excels at dramatizing the drastic differences between the modern-day process and its ancient Athenian version: “Anyone caught in the toils of these procedures,” Lysias reflects, “faced a sudden, real prospect of exile, confiscation, loss of civil rights or death, after trial of a day or less, with virtually no rules, without appeal.” One person who gets caught in these very procedures is Euphiletus, a gruff, brutish, but not entirely unsympathetic small-hold farmer who learns that his wife is cheating on him with a neighbor, Eratosthenes. He kills the man and then faces the full wrath of Athenian law as his fate falls into Lysias’ hands. The case proves far more complicated than it appears on the surface, however, and Garnett does a confident job of deepening his plot and drawing in more intriguing supporting characters, from Lysias’ brilliant slave, Timon, to the complexly drawn prostitutes of the city. The extent of the author’s background research is evident without being ostentatious, although he does have a weakness for imitating the artificial, stage-setting locutions of Socratic dialogues: “But now I see the servants bringing us refreshment,” Lysias says at one point. “Allow me to postpone my humble tale until we have enjoyed the good fare set before us.” However, the end result feels wonderfully authentic, and it’s sure to please fans of Steven Saylor’s and Lindsey Davis’ works.

A richly atmospheric murder mystery.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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