Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Century (Random House) 
Release Date: May 2003 
ISBN: 0712616152 
Format Reviewed: Hardback 
Buy it at Amazon US || UK
Read an Excerpt
Genre: Historical Crime [330BC Athens & various islands in the Aegean] 
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde 
Reviewer Notes:  

Aristotle & The Secrets of Life
By Margaret Doody 

     Margaret Doody's delightfully wise and unlikely detective Aristotle is back on the case again for a third novel and this time he is forced to flee Athens following an attack on his household. Alexander is far away conquering yet more cities and the Athenians are feeling fiercely independent, and have set themselves against the Macedonians and anybody else foreign. The narrator Stephanos, impoverished as ever but about to get married has to find a missing family member of his fiancée's family and thus goes off with Aristotle. Before they go, a series of outrages involving animal parts have been terrorizing the Athenians, and once on their odyssey, they are going to encounter plenty of adventures, and a body or two as well.

      This is quite a long book but reading about the thrilling voyage in Stephanos' own words is a memorable experience. He is on fine form here and as delightfully pompous as ever, very much a man of his time with his attitude towards women, foreigners and trying to impress his betters and rise in society. In the last book, readers were treated to some glorious descriptions of a Greek spring in the countryside and this time it is a hot summer on the Aegean with the splash of the oars and the many stops at the various and varied islands. As with the other two, this novel truly brings Ancient Greece to warm and real life again, politically incorrect (to us that is) and barbaric alongside the trappings of democracy and art. As for the "secrets of life", Aristotle throughout the book is trying to catalog and explain what the world is about, and is perpetually enchanted by the flora and fauna he finds, forming his own theories about them. This shows the excitement of living at a time when nobody had done this sort of thing before and open a window into those far-off times.

     The two previous books were true whodunits in the classic style but this story tends to lack cohesion and mainly features the inspiring account of the sea voyage. It all comes together at the end, but somehow it never seems like a neatly dovetailed story, rather a travelogue and a series of loosely connected events. It will be interesting to see where the author takes this in the fourth book; tidy whodunit or snapshot of life in ancient Greece? Both are gripping and enchanting. If the average historical novel appears too much like a costume piece featuring a time traveler from the present as protagonist, try this series for size.