If you have the Australian edition of The Pericles Commission, then you've got a bonus mystery on the cover.
Here's a detail:
This is the coin that peeps over the bottom edge. The coin isn't an artist's impression; it's a for-real coin. The clever designers at Penguin acquired the picture from an image library, and then layered it over the artist's very cool textured background.
When I saw this I emailed Belinda the Publisher to say, "You realize this isn't an Athenian coin, don't you?" I knew that because all ancient Athenian coins were stamped with an owl, a minerva owl in fact, which is the sacred bird of the goddess Athena. If you're interested, I once wrote an article about Athenian coins, where you'll see an example.
Neither Penguin nor I were too fussed about it. The lovely gold coin looked great on the cover and that's what mattered, but out of sheer curiousity, Belinda the Publisher asked in that case, where did the coin come from?
It was a terrific question, because there are a lot of odd things about that coin. To start with, the face is staring straight out. Almost all ancient coins showed faces in profile. Secondly, it's a gold coin, and gold coins were quite unusual; even Athens at her height stuck to silver. Thirdly, the image library labeled it as a head of Zeus, dated to 360BC. But there's no way that's a picture of Zeus; and that's an amazingly detailed stamp for 360BC.
I guessed it might be a picture of Helios, a sun god, as you can tell from the name. Helios didn't get much air time in the classical period, but he was more popular in Hellenistic times.
The coin was unquestionably from a Greek speaking locale, because around the bottom edge, although you can't see it on the cover, are six Greek letters:
Α Υ Ε ... that's Alpha - Upsilon - Epsilon on the left; and
Ι Ο Σ ... that's Iota - Omicron - Sigma on the right.
I can't show you the entire image because I don't own the copyright, but those are the letters. And those had to be mint maker marks.
Back then, all the Greek cities minted their own coins, and all the mints stamped the first three letters of their city name on their coins. All Athenian coins, for example, had Α Θ Ε: the first three letters of the name Athens. You can read off the origin of a coin by matching the three letters on the coin to the first three letters of a known Greek city.
But this coin had two mint names. It was bizarre. I went looking for cities whose names began ΑΥΕ, or ΙΟΣ. To add to the mystery, I couldn't find a single city that might conceivably match such an obviously expensive gold coin.
What in Hades was this thing?
It probably wasn't from the Greek mainland. I guessed, based on the style of the detailed stamp, the gold, the outward facing, and the non-Zeus-maybe-Helios, that this coin was from the late Hellenistic period, probably from Egypt or somewhere in what is now the Middle East. The Late Hellenistic period is when Rome ruled, but Greek culture held sway almost everywhere, and Egypt and surrounds at that time was rich enough to be minting with gold.
That was my guess. I sent the image off for an expert opinion, to an acquaintance who is a for-real expert on the economics of the ancient world. She had better remain anonymous, because this is an unofficial opinion, but she came back with interesting news:
The coin is a fake!
The Greek letters made no sense to her, either, and didn't match any known ancient mint. The face doesn't match any known god; it's definitely not Zeus (I got that right, at least!), and it's probably not Helios.
So I checked the database of the image library. The original picture was taken from a collection, presumably private, 20 or 30 years ago. Sitting in someone's collection, somewhere, is what is probably a forged coin.
That's where it stands. We left the coin on the cover of course, because having a forged coin on the cover of a crime novel is just too cool.