First Line: "Master, there's a man at the door who wants to see you. He says his name is Herodotus."
Nicolaos believed helping an author with research for his book would be a pretty tame way to pay the bills. But Herodotus's research trip to Egypt isn't well timed. Egypt is in the midst of a rebellion to throw out its Persian Empire overlords. Pirates infest the sea. There are three different armies to contend with. You can't step foot in the river because of the crocodiles-- and there are hordes of secret agents on dry land. It's not long at all before Nicolaos wants to take his wife Diotima back home to Greece where he can get a decent cup of wine.
I fell for Gary Corby's grasp of history and his excellent storytelling the first time I picked up one of his Athenian mysteries. Nicolaos is the perfect sleuth, called upon to investigate all sorts of interesting situations by Athens' premier citizen, Pericles. Nico's wife Diotima (a former priestess) is quite talented at deduction herself, and even his younger brother Socrates (yes, that Socrates) can come up with a good question or two (dozen).
Corby has created the perfect little time machine in which readers can visit ancient Greece and still feel at home. There are action sequences at sea and on dry land that will certainly keep the pages turning, and since there is no shortage of secret agents representing all the various factions in Egypt, readers will be kept guessing at the outcome. Traveling along with the world's first historian is yet another perk of reading this book.
One of the ways Corby makes readers feel so at home in this ancient world is with his use of humor. In this book, that humor begins with the title. How many of you thought of Elvis Presley when you saw "The Singer from Memphis"? I would imagine most of you did, unless you knew that Gary Corby writes mysteries set in ancient Greece and that there was a city in Egypt named-- you guessed it-- Memphis. But in this book, one of the characters is a young female who makes a living singing in a bar in Memphis, and the first time Nicolaos sees her, she's singing a song in Greek about suspicious minds. (Any Elvis fans smiling?) There's another instance of subtle humor when I was reminded of what happened when someone wore a red shirt in the original Star Trek series. Whether subtle or laugh-out-loud funny, Corby's humor brings his story to life and helps his readers make the transition to the ancient world.
The Singer from Memphis has a wonderful setting and characters and an engrossing mystery with more than a hint of a treasure hunt to it. For those of you who are wavering because you think you'll be unable to pronounce words, know what some of the words are, or be lost in history, waver no more. Corby has included a short cast of characters complete with pronunciation, a brief historic timeline to set up the story (although you really don't need it), and a glossary to define any of the words you may not be familiar with. Rest assured that Corby does a marvelous job of placing you in the ancient world without the feeling that you're drowning in history. In addition, his Author's Note at the end should not be missed-- although he warns you not to read it first because it's full of spoilers. This section tells you what is true and what isn't in the story as well as several other fascinating facts. Is it necessary to read this series in order? No, but I can see you reading one and then going back for the others.
Gary Corby has prepared the feast, and it's sitting on the table, waiting for you. All you need to do is to sit down and begin enjoying yourself.
The Singer from Memphis by Gary Corby
Soho Crime © 2016
Hardcover, 352 pages
Historical Mystery, #6 Classical Athens mystery
Source: the publisher