24 March 2021.
I chose to read this book, the third of Tonkin’s Trojan Murders, because I am fascinated by ancient history, but you don’t have to be knowledgeable about the myths and legends of Greece’s Heroic Age to enjoy this fast-moving story set in 1190 BC.
Achilles has taken the city of Lyrnessus which now lies in ruins. It appears that the only Royal survivor from the battle is Princess Briseis widow of Prince Mynes, son of King Euenus. The story opens with Briseis holding a knife to her throat claiming she would rather die than be dishonoured by Aias who is intent on raping her. He is prevented from doing so by Achilles. Princess Briseis rewards Achilles by accusing him of taking the city by treachery. Outraged by this slur on his reputation for honour, Achilles appeals to King Odysseus who agrees to investigate how the city fell into enemy hands.
The book’s narrator is Odysseus’s bard. A young man with a disabled leg and poor eyesight but a quick brain second only to that of his master. As the conquerors search the defeated city, they find King Euenus who appears struck down in recent days by a stroke and the bodies of Prince Mynes, his twin brother and Briseis’s two brothers laid out in the temple. The lengthy funeral rites of those killed in battle must be conducted with due ceremony and Odysseus’s investigation is further hampered by the approach of the fleet of Prince Sarpedon, a Trojan ally. The much depleted and battle-weary Greek fleet stand little chance against Sarpedon’s superior numbers. It becomes a race against time complicated by the fact that every line of enquiry is thwarted by an unknown assassin in their midst intent on misdirecting their efforts. No one is safe.
A gripping plot with twists and turns that defy the reader to put down the book and tax their detective powers to the full, this is a whirlwind of treachery and deceit that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Among its large cast of characters are many memorable figures, but my favourites are the young disabled narrator, unquestioningly loyal to his master Odysseus and the astute, feisty Princess Briseis. The two work together to solve much of the mystery while Odysseus and his fellow princes see to the funeral rites.
say, I loved it and thoroughly recommend it.
Reviewer: Judith Cranswick
Peter Tonkin 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.
Judith Cranswick was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’