A Greek archaeological dig holds deep secrets.
At the beginning of Azuski’s (The Rose-Tinted Menagerie, 2012) latest novel, 22-year-old Nicholas Pedrosa is fresh out of college. He’s stuck in a dead-end real estate job in England when he applies for a job on an archaeological dig on the Greek island of Santorini under the direction of the legendary archaeologist Marcus James Huxley. His interview with Huxley’s frosty Russian assistant, Svetlana Bé, goes so poorly that Pedrosa assumes he’s not getting the job—until boat tickets and travel details arrive in the mail. He travels to Greece, intrigued to learn along the way that Huxley’s expedition has uncovered mysterious 5,000-year-old hieroglyphics at the site. Curiosity turns to dread when Pedrosa arrives at Santorini only to find Huxley and his associates attending a funeral—the funeral of Huxley’s previous young assistant. Pedrosa gets a decidedly unfriendly reception from the great man, and he’s promptly confronted with two mysteries—What actually happened to his predecessor? And what happened to all the ancient inhabitants of the city that was buried in a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago on the site of Huxley’s dig? The homes and workplaces of those ancient inhabitants are perfectly preserved, but unlike other famous disaster sites, such as Pompeii, there’s no trace of any people. Azuski knits these plotlines together with considerable skill, contextualizing them within the wider philosophical background of a search for Plato’s mythical lost city of Atlantis and infusing them with plenty of memorable descriptions (“The dawn chorus woke me at five,” Pedrosa says, “Athens’ version of it, that is, cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes racing the clock, chasing the sunrise”). The imperious Huxley and his private agenda dominate the plot, and the baffled, inquisitive Pedrosa eventually becomes a hero to root for as he navigates the various personalities of Huxley’s dig team. Ongoing digressions into Santorini’s distant past jar at first but ultimately reinforce the novel’s taut, well-constructed climax.
A smart and satisfying archaeological thriller in the vein of Dan Brown.