by Gary Corby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gary Corby’s latest Athenian Mystery, The Singer From Memphis (Soho Crime 2016) is–again–wonderful. Husband-and-wife Nicolaus and Diotima set out to provide safe passage for Herodotus (yes, the famous ancient Greek historian) as he travels to dangerous areas of ancient Egypt to research his first history book. Along the way, they wage a battle against pirates, are rescued by triremes, run into old enemies who might become friends, avoid death by a varied number of adversaries, and solve a long-standing mystery. The entire story is told in a modern voice (time-traveled to Ancient Greece) with a wit that avoids what could otherwise be a dry unfolding of historic events.
Corby’s historic voice is refreshingly modern and consummately readable:
“Every man, woman, and child in this city… don’t want to be governed… They want to be left alone … Have you ever noticed how cheap it is to rule a law-abiding citizen who just wants to be left alone? I love citizens like that.”
One of my favorite parts is how Corby shows that in some ways, life hasn’t changed in two thousand years. Here is one of the characters complaining that life was better when he was a child:
“In the old days, gentlefolk of distinction would gather here in our lounge… Try doing that with these new rich. They walk in and expect to be served quickly. They demand a mausoleum bigger than their neighbors, then complain about anything that costs more than a coffin of paper mache. ... How I yearn for those past times.”
The characters are well-researched as are the settings and the history. I particularly love that Corby includes Author’s Notes detailing the history and where he took artistic license, as well as a glossary to define those ancient words no longer in use.
I’ve read every book in the series (see my review of Death Ex Machina here) and eagerly await the next.
Note to Gary: I finished this in two days. Can you write the next one faster?
More historic novels:
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 over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for 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.