Review in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Not that I'd be one to boast—no, of course not—but the Richmond Times-Dispatch has this terrific review of Pericles Commission.

Here's the full text:

Basing a novel on a real-life case isn't a new form of fiction -- and not always a successful one -- but Australian writer Gary Corby tells a crackerjack story in his debut mystery.
In 461 B.C., reformer Ephialtes was murdered in Athens, and it's from that killing that Corby fashions The Pericles Commission (335 pages, Minotaur Books, $24.99), a happy melding of historical figures with fictional characters.
When Ephialtes' body falls from above and lands at the feet of 20-year-old Nicolaos -- the fictional son of the sculptor Sophornicus and the older brother of Socrates -- Nicolaos is given a commission by the politician Pericles to find the killer.
Nicolaos has no desire to follow his father's profession and instead wants to rise to Athenian leadership. As he investigates Ephialtes' murder, he discovers a hotbed of political intrigue involving ideology, ambition and corruption. But he also wonders whether the motive for killing Ephialtes might be more personal. And amidst his pursuit, as the bodies pile up, he finds himself falling for Diotima, the dead man's daughter by the courtesan Euterpe.
Corby makes his story sing, with a fascinating plot and well-executed characters both real and fictional. And rarely has Greek history been more accessible to the layman.


For what it's worth, my observation is that nowadays a large number of historical mysteries use real historical characters, and a noticeable proportion refer to real events. It's harder work, but it's very rewarding.

Maybe an even greater number borrow fictional characters to use as detectives, or use real authors as detectives, or other deliberately out-of-place famous people. They're the ones I'd be less sure about. It's nice having the shock value of, say, Joan of Arc as your detective, but very, very difficult to maintain across a novel. If you're to do something that stretches credibility, it has to be for a good reason that makes sense in story context.

I've been quiet on the blog in the last couple of weeks because I have almost...almost...almost...finished book 3. I keep telling my wife it'll be finished tomorrow.

16 comments:

Meghan said...

Very cool! I'm a little over half finished and I'm really enjoying the book. FINALLY a book about Ancient Greece with lots and lots of humor. :)

Sarah W said...

Great review!

My mother-in-law read Pericles in a day and enjoyed it very much.

She just heard me say you were almost done with the third one and is now hanging over my shoulder ("Oh, don't tell him that!"---Ow) and wants me to ask you (right now) when the second one might be released?

L. T. Host said...

Yay :) Love reading good reviews.

And glad Book 3 is whipping into shape for you. Here's crossing my fingers for you and the Mrs. that it is, indeed, done tomorrow. :)

Gary Corby said...

Glad you're enjoying it Meghan!

I quite deliberately avoided the we-are-serious-Greeks-who-never-smile thing, but I can't explain where half the humor comes from. It sort of just happened.

Gary Corby said...

Sarah, you must be kind to your mother-in-law, because she likes my book and therefore clearly is a woman of fine taste and discernment.

Book 2 -- The Ionia Sanction -- will be out either October or November 2011. The idea is a book a year. I don't have an exact date yet, I'm afraid.

Believe it or not, the author has nothing to do with when his book releases. It's all calculated by editors and marketing people based on how they want the book positioned in the market, and after they've consulted their horoscopes.

Gary Corby said...

Hi L.T.

I totally promise Book 3 will be finished by tomorrow.

(I'm bound to get it right eventually.)

Helen said...

Promises.

C. N. Nevets said...

My wife's been reading Pericles Commission before I had a chance to and is loving the heck out of it. She's nearing the end and last night as she was reading, her eyes went wide and she clasped her hand over her mouth. You've got her on her toes and entertained!

Meanwhile, I'm reading R. N. Morris' latest, Razor Wrapped in Silk. It's a historical mystery set in late Czarist Russia. It's one of those you're talking about, though, as it borrows as its detective Porfiry Petrovich from Crime and Punishment. It's well executed, though, and doesn't feel even slightly cheap or gimmicky.

Gary Corby said...

So glad Mrs Nevets likes it! If it was towards the end, I'll bet I know which scene it was that got the reaction.

I didn't mean to say that every book using a famous character in an unusual context is perforce in trouble, but I do think it's very hard to maintain, and therefore more vulnerable.

The character who carries the point of view is, by definition, an observer; which doesn't sit well with many famous personality types. I wouldn't expect to see "Josef Stalin: Cozy Detective" any time soon.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm cheering you on for Book #3!

And BTW, I have you to thank (or blame) for getting me interested in the mystery genre. I've read several this year and have several more on my list. Prior to your recommendations, my only experience with mystery was Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie.

Who the heck knew there were so many historical mysteries out there? I'm loving it!

Gary Corby said...

There are lots! As you've obviously discovered.

So I'm curious...what historical mysteries did you read?

L. T. Host said...

I'll just keep coming back to that comment til you post that it's finished, and then you'll be right! From the day before. Or something.

Time travel hurts my brain.

Cherie Reich said...

Great review! I can't wait to get my copy and read it. Come on shipment from Amazon! :D

Gary Corby said...

Hi Cherie,

Thanks. You've commented on the blog before, months ago, so I know the review didn't direct you here, but since you're in Virginia, did you see the actual printed version?

bob said...

I live in Richmond, and this is how I discovered The Pericles Commision! Great book, and equally great review!

Gary Corby said...

Bob, you're the first person, to the best of my knowledge, to have found the book via a review and then come to visit the blog.

Which makes you especially welcome!