THE MARATHON CONSPIRACY
By Gary Corby.
Ancient Greece's first detective, Nicolaos, returns in The Marathon Conspiracy, the latest book by Australian author Gary Corby.
In a rare moment of peace, Nicolaos has come home to marry the beautiful priestess Diotima, but a body has been discovered at the Sanctuary of Artemis by two young initiates.
The body appears to be that of Hippia, former Tyrant of Athens, a man so despised by the people of Athens that they fought the Battle of Marathon to keep him out of power.
When one of the initiates is killed, apparently mauled by a bear, and the other disappears, Nicolaos is sent to investigate.
With the city on the edge and elections looming, Nicolaos must uncover Athens' greatest traitor to solve the crime.
This is the fourth book by Corby that follows the investigations by Nico and Diotima in ancient Greece.
Smart, funny and very entertaining, this series is set in a reimagined Athens, where the citizens act like modern people, rather than their assumed classical behaviours.
This is continued in the latest book and is the source of much humour, especially when combined with historical jokes about events yet to happen.
A good example of this is a frank discussion between Nicolaos and his father about how his younger brother, the future philosopher Socrates, will never amount to anything.
Corby's earlier books have been popular because they successfully blend equal elements of mystery, humour and history.
While the humour and mystery components are still an essential part of The Marathon Conspiracy, the novel has more of a historical edge as it explores the events surrounding the formation of democracy and the Battle of Marathon.
Corby adds more to the book's historical side by including a number of important classical figures, including the recurring cast of Pericles and Socrates.
In addition to them, Corby has included the famed playwright Aeschylus and the statesman Callias.
Other historical elements that may prove interesting to readers are the portrayals of Athenian politics, divorce law, land management and wedding traditions.
The Marathon Conspiracy is a fast-paced, enjoyable, murder mystery that will make readers laugh and think in equal measure.