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A DARKER GOD
By Barbara Cleverly
Bantam Books, 2010 "A Mortalis Trade Paperback original" ($15.00)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Mycaenae, 1200 B.C. After ten long years, King Agamemnon returns from the war, bringing with him his favorite concubine and their baby. Queen Clytemnestra gives him the red carpet treatment, literally. His welcome home was short-lived, as was he.
Fast forward to 1928. Greece is once again going through turbulent times. The king is in exile and the government is in chaos. Percy Montacute, Chief Inspector for Scotland Yard's CID, is sent to Athens to keep an eye on Sir Andrew Merriman, a scholar who is about to finish his master work, the definitive biography of Alexander the Great. The two men, who knew each other when they served in the Great War, meet "by chance" in the Athens museum while examining the golden mask of Agamemnon. Sir Andrew asks Montacute, who apparently isn't a skilled spy, if he is following him. Montacute denies it, and asks him if he thinks he is being followed. Sir Andrew admits that he does. The main culprit is an angry taxi driver, but why he is angry, and why he keeps turning up everywhere to glare at Merriman is a mystery.
The local English community is putting on a play about Agamemnon at an ancient amphitheater near where the original story played out. Montacue is pressed into taking part. On the night of the rehearsal, things go very wrong. Montacute is on the spot when a body is discovered, and he takes over until the local authorities arrive. Laetitia Talbot, an archaeologist who'd studied with Sir Andrew, and despite their age difference, had become a very close friend, is given the job of writing down the names and addresses of everyone who is there. Laeticia's lover, ex-military and ex-priest William Gunning, assists Montecute.
Another death occurs, which appears at first to be a terrible accident. When it is declared a homicide, Laetitia is a suspect. She finds an ally and friend when Queen Clytemnestra, aka Thetis Templeton, Maud Merriman's cousin, shows up on her doorstep and asks to stay with her. Lady Maud is not her favorite relative, and she got fed up with the atmosphere in the Merriman home. Or so she says. The two young women have more in common than a dislike of Lady Maud, but despite, or perhaps because, of that, they form a bond. Together they work to clear their names and find the true killer.
The author's writing has been compared favorably to Elizabeth Peters and Jacqueline Winspear. The historical details are interesting and accurate, the description of the setting and the culture vivid. The juxtaposition of the ancient murder of King Agamemnon and the modern death of Merriman in the same location is a clever plot line. The award-winning author also writes the Joe Sandilands series.
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