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The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby
Cover Artist: Stefano Vitale
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616953874
Date: 29 April 2014 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In ancient Greece, Nico, son of Sophroniscus, is still trying to earn a living as an investigator while planning to marry his fiancée, Diotema. The great statesman, Pericles, presents Nico with his most challenging case. Two girls, students at the Sanctuary of Bauron, discover inside a cave the skeleton of the slain tyrant, Hippias; beside him lays a wooden box containing five scrolls. Who slew Hippias and why is one of the scrolls now missing? Also, to make matters more gruesome, one of the girls, Ophelia, has disappeared and the other, Allike, has been torn apart, her body barely recognizable.

Also by Gary Corby:
Athenian Mysteries:
* The Pericles Commission
* The Ionia Sanction
* Sacred Games
* The Marathon Conspiracy

Gary Corby's The Marathon Conspiracy (following Sacred Games, The Ionia Sanction and The Pericles Commission) is the most entertaining novel of the entire series starring the intrepid sleuthing duo, Nico and Diotema. This one concerns a cold case involving one of history's most evil villains, and the heinous, brutal slaying of an innocent child. Corby combines actual historical events and characters with fictional events and characters to create a mystery that is extremely intriguing. Using modern slang such as "deal with it" and "I think we're done here", he writes in a manner that can be easily understood by present day readers. It's like reading the abridged, modern translation of the Bible.

As always, I learned some interesting facts about the culture of ancient Greece. Infant mortality was high. Girls weren't valued very much. Pericles thought Nico should spend more time looking for Hippias' killer than learning who tore apart Allike. Nico, being a just man, is determined to find the girl's killer. During his search, he travels to the Sanctuary of Bauron (the world's first private school for girls, according to Corby), which has some strange characters. Foremost is the beautiful Gais who likes to run naked through the woods and spew forth strange prophecies and quote lines from plays. (I have an elderly aunt who was once rumored to run naked along the roads at night.) There are strange customs involving the sacrificing of one's toys, which allows a girl to become an adult.

Diotima, we learn, attended the Sanctuary of Bauron as a child; however, a part of her never quite wanted to grow up. (I can relate.) Nico and Diotima are both maturing as their marriage approaches. The passive Nico is learning to become the head of his household; the headstrong Diotima is gradually learning to obey him. In the meantime, he is using his carpentry skills to prepare the quarters in his parents' house where they will sleep. Their eventual wedding is magnificent, memorable, and heartwarming, like something from a fairytale; it nearly brought tears to my eyes. The Marathon Conspiracy places much emphasis on the family unit, especially in regards to members loving each other and avenging each other's murders.

Readers will learn much about the actual battle of Marathon. They will be awed, like I was, at the bravery of the Greeks who fought valiantly against the Persians who outnumbered them ten to one. Several of the characters actually fought at this battle, which provides the background for most of the novel's intrigue. Many of the main characters are guilty of committing crimes. It is left to Nico, who has grown into quite the professional investigator, to solve everything. In the tradition of Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen, he gathers all the suspects together in order to name the true villain--the one who murdered Allike and blamed it on an innocent animal.

History was never one of my favorite subjects in high school. If I had had teachers like Gary Corby, I think I would have enjoyed it. In school, history consisted of mundane events with names of people and dates. Corby exuberantly adds life and color to historical events, making them worth remembering. His historical mysteries are top notch; they have unique settings, interesting characters (some are quite bizarre), startling revelations, and (my favorite) gruesome, bloody deaths. I highly recommend all his novels featuring the lovable sleuthing pair of Nico and Diotima. I can't wait for another installment of this wild toga party mystery series.

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