The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby

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The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A young investigator and his bride-to-be go searching for a child murderer in ancient Athens.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 334 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Soho Crime
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781616953874

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Nicolaos has a lot on his mind. His wedding is only a few weeks away and he still has no real means of supporting a wife and family. The investigating game, it seems, doesn't pay too well. So when his patron Pericles asks him to investigate the murder of a young child, Nico is a little reticent, especially since he is still waiting to be paid for his previous assignment. Deciding that he can't afford to be picky, Nico accepts a case which will see him, amongst other things, fending off street thugs, diving for treasure in a sacred spring, going on a bear hunt, rescuing a pair of fighting cocks and consulting a strange priestess who has a habit of running around the woods naked...At least he can't complain that his work is boring.

Corby does a wonderful job transporting the reader back to ancient Athens and he is clearly an author who is an expert on his subject. He seamlessly blends history and fiction, introducing real-life historical figures into the plot, such as Hippias, Pericles, Diotima, Aeschylus and even Socrates himself, who just happens to be Nico's annoying kid brother. Corby explains Athens' politics, laws and moral codes by making them part of the storyline, which is set against the backdrop of the Sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron, which was one of the earliest examples of a girls-only school.

The mystery is a multi-layered one; two schoolgirls have uncovered the bones of the Persian tyrant Hippias who was murdered decades previously. Shortly after this discovery, one of the girls is found dead, apparently ripped apart by a bear. The other girl is missing, also presumed dead. Nico has to find out what happened to the girls and also solve the mystery of who murdered Hippias all those years ago. There are also plenty of sub-mysteries to keep Nico busy, including reports of a mysterious flashing signal at the battle of Marathon, a dead body and a Persian sword found in the sacred spring and a father who is seemingly unconcerned about his daughter's disappearance. The mysteries are all related and lead to a tidy and satisfactory conclusion at the end of the book where all of the loose ends are tied off neatly.

I had mixed feelings about the book. On the positive side, I thought the characters were likeable and well drawn and it was easy to warm to the main couple, Nico and Diotima. The settings and locations were all beautifully described and the book was clearly well researched. The mystery story was interesting and the ending was heartwarming. My problem was that, for me, the story itself was not engaging enough and the pace was slow. There seemed to be far too many story arcs and the plot frequently went off at a tangent, which served to dilute the actual mystery of the girls' disappearance. Granted, everything was neatly resolved at the end, but I worry that some readers would give up before getting to that point, which would be a terrible shame.

As a work of fiction, I found the book a little lacking, with a plot that sometimes plodded along slower than Blossom the Donkey's cart. As a history textbook, however, The Marathon Conspiracy works well and I certainly learned a lot from reading it, especially the fascinating author's notes and timeline. Anyone studying this period in history would do well to read this series of books to get a feel for what life was really like in ancient Athens. Many thanks to the publishers for my review copy.

If you want to learn more about Socrates, Bookbag recommends The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life by Bettany Hughes

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Buy The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Marathon Conspiracy by Gary Corby at


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