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A Dead Man in Athens
Seymour of Special Branch #3

by Michael Pearce

      Seymour of Special Branch is back for a third case in this series by the author of the Mamur Zapt novels. Summoned to Athens for what seems like the flimsiest of reasons - to discover who poisoned the exiled Sultan’s cat - he finds a country obsessed with preparing for war. The youth of Athens seem to be mad for flying machines, and the government is planning on getting several Blériots to add to the privately owned ones. Ancient and modern, the forward-thinking Christian world of the Greeks and the more conservative world of the Muslim Turks clash as often as they mingle, and soon there is a human casualty for Seymour to investigate.

If you like books bursting with action that hurtle along, then you won’t enjoy this series, or indeed any of Pearce’s books. I personally enjoy their atmosphere, and here he is adept at conjuring up Athens, as the storm clouds of war gather and the world is changed forever. There is a comic opera touch here, in that nobody much seems to treat this threat terribly seriously, and it all seems rather akin to a Boy’s Own adventure. Therein lies tragedy. This is another story, too, about the new chafing against the old, and east meeting west like two parallel lines, with disastrous consequences. Seymour, like Owen, is neither a local, nor does he inhabit the rarefied world of the diplomats, so he is a sympathetic protagonist and in a unique place to observe and investigate. This is not a long book, and a little more excitement and less repetition at times would be a boon. However, it is still a book that lingers in the mind afterwards. Fans of the Mamur Zapt books will find much in here to enjoy.

The Book

Constable (Constable & Robinson)
28 September 2006
Historical Crime - 1912, Athens, Greece
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006