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Death of an Elgin Marble
Lord Powerscourt #13
David Dickinson

Constable Crime
January 16, 2014/ ISBN 978-1472105134
Mystery / British / Historical-Early 1900s/ Private-enquiry Agent / England

Reviewed by LJ Roberts


First Sentence: It took the British Museum five days to realize that they had lost their Caryatid.

When Lord Elgin brought part of the ancient temple marbles back to London, it became a subject of conflict between England and Greece. Now, one of the Caryatid—a beautiful, 7’ tall maiden who was one of six temple’s columns--has been uncovered as a fake and the real column missing. Lord Powerscourt is asked to handle the case, but soon an art theft also becomes a murder investigation.

One of the many things which makes this book so appealing is Dickinson’s voice, which conveys the style of the period, and use of humor…”It was the stroking [of the statue’s hand] that confirmed to the attendant on duty that this latest visitor was probably insane and certainly needing intercepting before he embraced the Caryatid...”

Dickinson has created wonderful characters in Powerscourt, his wife Lady Lucy—who has a countless number of useful relatives, and Johnny Fitzgerald—an Irish peer who was in the war with Powerscourt, and who is overly fond of drink. I particularly appreciate that Lucy is not a show piece, nor does she run around and help solve the crimes. Instead, she is a clever and intelligent women whose opinion and views others take quite seriously.

We also have Ragg, the director of the museum who reads Shakespeare sonnets to calm down; and Inspector Kingsley who is writing a children’s book on the Elgin Marbles as his cover. For those who have followed the series, it is also nice to see the Powerscourt children, particularly Thomas, now grown.
The pacing of the story is very well done. The story moves nicely at a steady pace, offset by periods of high excitement and/or suspense.

In addition to excellent descriptions, we are also invited to share the wonderful flights of fancy that Powerscourt’s mind can take: “…’Are there any more bids, ladies and gentlemen?’ Powerscourt thought this was like the Jane Eyre moment in the wedding service…” as well as appreciate several well-done metaphors…”…Sokraitis was dying, his liver now a thing of the past, this other organs shutting down one after another like flowers closing at the fading of the light.” The inclusion of Powerscourt’s dream inspires a whole thread lending itself to contemplation and discussion.

Death of an Elgin Marble is a bit overcomplicated at times with a tendency to go off on fairly long literary tangents, but it is wonderfully written, with some excellent plot twists and relates the timely issue of to whom to antiquities belong. All-in-all, it was fascinating.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Death & The Jubilee, No 2
Death of an Old Master
, No 3
Death of a Chancellor, No 4
Death Called To The Bar, No 5
Death on the Nevskii Prospekt, No 6
Death on the Holy Mountain, No 7
Death of a Pilgrim,
No 8
Death of a Wine Merchant
, No 9
Death in a Scarlet Coat, No 10 [review 1] [review 2]
Death at the Jesus Hospital, No 11 [review 1] [review 2]
Death of an Elgin Marble No 13
Death Comes to the Ballets Russes No 14


Reviewed 2015