Century (Random House)
Date: May 2003
it at Amazon US || UK
Historical Crime [330BC Athens & various islands in the
Rachel A Hyde
& The Secrets of Life
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.