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Sacred Games (Athenian Mysteries) by Gary Corby
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616952273
Date: 21 May 2013 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Blog / Show Official Info /

In 460 BC, Nico travels to Olympia to watch his childhood friend and fellow Athenian, Timo, participate in the sacred games. Upon arrival, Timo attacks his bitter opponent, Arakos, a Spartan who kept taunting him. The next morning Arakos is found in the woods beaten to death and with his eyes gouged out. Nico is ordered by the great statesman Pericles to find Arakos' murderer before Timo is thrown off a cliff and war erupts between Sparta and Athens. During his investigation, Nico is aided by his fiancée, Diotima, his brother, Socrates, and a Spartan, Markos. Meanwhile, more corpses are found as the killer tries to thwart the investigation.

Reading Gary Corby's mysteries of ancient Greece makes me wish I had studied world history in high school. However, I always had trouble remembering dates. Fortunately, Corby does his best to make his latest mystery, Sacred Games, an enjoyable experience for the reader. He provides a cast of characters with their pronunciations, a glossary of Grecian terms, and an author's note, which gives an account of the true events and people upon which the novel is based. Except for the ancient names of people and places, Sacred Games reads like a modern day mystery. It is a fast-paced novel that kept me enthralled with its abundance of violence, gore, sexual situations and humor.

Sacred Games is the best in the series so far, following The Ionia Sanction and The Pericles Commission. This time, Nico becomes involved in the Olympic Games, which were sacred. During the games, a truce was declared throughout all the rival cities of Greece. However, the murder of a Spartan athlete by an Athenian athlete threatens to break that truce and begin a war. There is a tremendous amount of pressure for Nico to find the killer. He must work hand and hand with a rival Spartan, Markos, but grows to like him. Honor and loyalty are huge themes in this novel. Characters are overly concerned with how others perceive them. There is also a lot of humor, especially involving the prostitutes or pornoi that attend the games. This novel contains more sexual content than the previous two.

Also, Sacred Games is probably one of the most provocative of the three novels. The Olympics seems rife with homosexuality. Athletes are having sexual relationships with other athletes and their trainers. Recently, ABC Family announced the introduction of a new television drama, The Fosters. It involves an interracial "family" consisting of two lesbian lovers, a biological son, and adopted children. Last year, NBC launched a similar drama titled The New Normal, involving two gay men. Historical mysteries, such as the ones Corby writes, prove that people haven't really changed much over the past few thousand years.

Sacred Games involves much more heartrending episodes than its predecessors. Nico and Diotima are trapped in a Romeo and Juliet-type relationship; they struggle to get their fathers to agree over Diotima's dowry. Each father is motivated by their own financial shortcomings; they selfishly disregard the love that their children share for each other. While at the Olympics, Diotima learns she has another relative, which results in a tearful reunion. Sacred Games is also more brutal, more violent, than its predecessors because of the Ben Hur-like chariot races which caused me to wince with pain as I read the gory descriptions of injuries and deaths. Also, we learn that medicine was extremely primitive. Reading these types of historical mysteries always make me appreciate modern medicine.

As a Christian, I only believe in one God. However, if I believed in many gods, as the Greeks did, I would sacrifice a white bull to Zeus in hopes of having the opportunity and privilege to read Gary Corby's next novel in this outstanding series. I can't wait to be present at the official marriage of Nico and his beloved Diotima. If you haven't begun reading the adventures of Nico and Diotima, what are you waiting for? I suggest reading them in chronological order, beginning with the The Pericles Commission when Pericles gives Nico his first investigative assignment. He meets the beautiful priestess Diotima and together they become one of history's most romantic sleuthing teams.

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