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Monday 8 December 2014

‘Sacred Games’ by Gary Corby

Published by Turnaround,
May 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-6169-53269-0

The Olympic Games, 460BC.  Timodemus, the Athenian champion of the deadly pankration event, is the hot favourite, and it’s obvious that he’s the only man who could have beaten his Spartan rival Arakos to death... This means war with Sparta the moment the Sacred Truce is over – unless sleuth Nicolaos and his clever wife Diotima can find out the truth.

After a diet of Scandi noir, child abuse and psychopathic woman torture, I’d forgotten that reading crime stories was meant to be fun.  I chuckled my way through this  PI cosy from ancient Greece, and learned a lot of useless facts on the way along.  The plot is well paced, with a good mix of detection, action and twists, and the history’s never allowed to take over – everything is relevant (there’s a wonderful section at the end for historical bits Corby couldn’t fit into the main text), clues are fairly presented in the best Christie tradition, and there’s a good ‘It was you!’ moment at the end.  It’s narrated by Nicolaos, who is escaping being a sculptor in his father’s firm to see if he can really make a living as an investigator.  Nicolaos and his priestess wife Diotima are a lively back-chatting duo, and there’s a huge supporting cast of real people: Pericles, the ruler that democratic Athens shouldn’t have, Nicolaos’s little brother Socrates (yes, that Socrates), the poet Pindar.  The descriptions of life at the Greek Olympiads is vivid, a history lesson in itself, and I loved Corby’s sense of humour – there are great one-liners, and I had to stop reading altogether to laugh at the episode where Diotima organised Socrates (aged twelve) to use his maths and a prostitute’s money jar to work out how many customers she’d had, and in what positions, while Diotima timed how long each took.

Witty, cleverly-plotted and a visit to an historical event too.  It can be read as a stand-alone, but if this sounds your kind of thing, why spoil a good series?  The first is The Pericles Commission.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Gary Corby has long been fascinated by ancient history, finding it more exciting and bizarre than any modern thriller. He's combined the ancient world with his love of whodunits, to create an historical mystery series set in classical Greece. Gary lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and two daughters. He blogs at A Dead Man Fell from the Sky, on all things ancient, Athenian, and mysterious.

More information is at

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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