this novel Peter Tonkin continues the adventures of his partly-sighted and
crippled anonymous young rhapsode (or bard), who is the narrator, and his
master, King Odysseus of Ithaca. You may remember that in Beware of Greeks, the first novel of the Trojan Murder Mystery Series, Odysseus and the rhapsode travel to
the city of Phthia in Northern Greece to win the support of Peleus, King of
Thessaly, for the expedition that the High King Agamemnon is mounting against
the city of Troy. The ostensible purpose of this expedition is to recover the
beautiful Helen, wife to King Menelaus of Sparta but abducted by the Trojan
prince Paris. Agamemnon’s real motives, of course, are profit and
self-aggrandisement. On the journey to Phthia, and subsequently to the island
of Skyros, the rhapsode learns many things, such as the devious and ruthless
nature of Greek power politics, the lengths to which Peleus’s queen, Thetis,
will go to save her son Achilles, the greatest warrior of his age, from the
death that awaits him at Troy, and, most importantly, the basic skills of
detection imparted to him by the sleuth king Odysseus. However, he also
discovers that someone has it in for rhapsodes.
In Vengeance at Aulis his experiences are not that dissimilar. The
action has shifted to the port city of Aulis, where the Greek fleet of 1,000
ships is waiting to carry 50,000 men from all parts of Greece to attack Troy.
The problem is that the fleet is becalmed and cannot sail, and the men are
becoming restless, even mutinous. A young priestess of Artemis is killed, along
with a stag sacred to the goddess, in the temple grounds. The High Priestess
Karpathia, outraged, requests Odysseus to discover the murderer, which
eventually he does, not before other deaths occur, including that of a
rhapsode, which is ominous for the narrator. Through her oracle, the goddess
has demanded that the murderer pay a price: the sacrifice of a child!
Odysseus, with his adept young
apprentice, must use all his powers of diplomacy and detection to negotiate his
path through plots and counter-plots, needing to cope with the hostility and
mutual antipathy between Agamemnon and Karpathia, between the High King and his
brother Menelaus, and, last but not least, between Agamemnon and his beautiful
queen, Clytemnestra, who arrives suddenly with her even more beautiful
daughter, Iphigenia, whom she fully expects to marry the glamorous Prince
This preliminary to the Trojan War,
as students of Euripides and Racine will know, does not end well. Odysseus is
indeed an attractive character ― highly intelligent, humane, a natural leader
trusted by his men, a sceptic and rationalist in an age of superstition. Apart
from the intricate and ingenious plotting, I enjoyed the descriptive passages
evoking the wild beauty of the Greek landscape. One criticism I have, which
will put off only the most pedantic reader, is that the proof-reading could
have been more thorough. There are several errors and inconsistencies in
punctuation and spelling. For example, Palamedes,
one of the more unattractive minor characters, is at one point spelt Palimedes.
But this book is a splendid read
and we look forward to its successors in the series.
Reviewer: Ranald Barnicot
was born 1 January 1950 in Ulster, son of an RAF officer. He spent much of his youth travelling the world from one posting to another. He went to school at Portora Royal, Enniskillen and Palmer's, Grays. He sang, acted, and published poetry, winning the Jan Palac Memorial Prize in 1968. He studied English with Seamus Heaney at Queen's Belfast. His first novel, Killer, was published in 1978. His work has included the acclaimed "Mariner" series that have been critically compared with the best of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley and Hammond Innes. He has also written a series of Elizabethan mysteries. Since retiring from teaching he has written mysteries set in Ancient Rome and more recently a series set in Greece. is a retired teacher of EFL/ESOL who has worked in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the UK. He has a BA in Classics from Balliol College, Oxford, and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Birkbeck College, London. While at Oxford, he acted (as the chorus leader!) in a Classical Society production of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos. His main activity now is as poet and poetic translator. A Greek Verse for Ophelia, and other poems by Giovanni Quessep (Out-spoken Press, 2018), co-translated from Spanish with Felipe Botero Quintana, came out in November 2018. By Me, Through Me, original poems and translations, was published by Alba Publishing in December of the same year. Friendship, Love, Abuse etc The shorter Poems of Catullus (Dempsey and Windle) was published in July 2020.