Book Review: Sacred Games by Gary Corby

Sacred Games
An Athenian Mystery #3
Gary Corby
Soho Crime, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-6195-369-0
TradePaperback

This is the second novel by Corby I’ve read in this series. Set in ancient Greece, the main characters are royal investigator Nicolaos and his incredibly smart wife, the priestess Diotima. Nico’s brother, Socrates–yes, that Socrates–is featured as well, plus a good many other names I’m sure you’ll recognize from your ancient world history classes.

The story takes place at the 80th Olympiad, where competitors play for keeps, as in fight to the death. On the competitive field, if an opponent dies, no one can be tried for murder. The same does not hold true off the field, which draws Nico, under orders from Athen’s top politician and diplomat, Pericles, to find the killer of an elite Spartan pankration athlete named Arakos. The Athenian champion in pankration is the accused, and refuses to provide an alibi for himself. In order to prevent a war between the states of Athens and Sparta, Nico has to figure it all out before the end of the games.

Pankration? you may ask. I’m still not sure but it sounds like a mixture of various martial arts, kick boxing, and plain old street fighting, including kidney punches and the gouging of eyes.

The story contains plenty of suspects, although everyone has a hard time believing anyone but another pankration player could possibly beat a big man like Arakos, and there are so many twists and turns you’re apt to get dizzy. At the same time, it’s going to keep you involved. And what a good way to learn something about ancient history! Mr. Corby’s research is extensive, and is the best way I know of to teach the rest of us a bit of Greek history and culture. Meanwhile, the humor in the Nico and Diotima mysteries always brings a laugh, and Socrates is a hoot. I’m pleased to recommend this one.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

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