by Gary Corby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received for review from Amazon Vine
I discovered Gary Corby’s ancient Greece novels after reading Wilbur Smith’s Desert God about ancient Egypt. It made me hunger for more on the lives of people before technology took over. Corby’s five-installment series, based in the world’s first democracy around 450 B.C., stars Athenian detectives Nicolaos and Diotima, The ongoing story of their adventures (and misadventures) and daily life is fun and engaging, with authentic detail about a long-gone era. An Afterword section discusses the history highlighted in each book which I read as eagerly as the novel.
Death Ex Machina is the latest of the series. Nicolaos and Diotima investigate a series of mishaps at the Great Dionysia, the largest arts festival on the ancient world and held to honor the god Dionysos. When an actor is murdered, it threatens to close down the festival and embarrass Athens in the eyes of both friends and enemies. ‘Embarrassment’ in those times was conflated with weakness, which was not good in a world populated by neighbors looking for opportunities to destroy neighbors. The two detectives follow clues, unravel mysteries, and avoid near-death experiences–much like would happen in any detective novel–but wrapped in the shroud of a long-ago Hellenic world–which means no forensics or technology, just the investigative tools available over two thousand years ago.
Corby weaves in so much about history, I come away with a much stronger understanding of that era. His supporting characters include Socrates, Aeschylus, and Sophocles–all names I’ve read, but now I get to know them as I would a friend. Every time I look up a piece of history Corby includes, he’s spot on. He brings it to life by making it personal, approachable and relatable. The only device that rattled me–at first–is his characters used current language rather than ancient. I got used to it, accepting it as I would if it were translated from Greek to English. In this case, it was translated from ‘ancient’ to ‘modern’.
Overall, a great find. I love every book in the series and eagerly await the next. Write on, Gary Corby, write on!
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.