Author: Tobias Hill, 2009.
Genre: Literary. Contemporary. Thriller
Other Details: Paperback. 354 pages.
In Sparta, southern Greece, a close-knit team of archaeologists dig for the buried traces of a formidable ancient power. A latecomer, Ben Mercer, finds himself drawn to the brilliance and charisma of the group: the double-edged friendship of his countryman Jason, the unsettling beauty of the women, Natsuko and Eleschen, and the menace of Max and Eberhard, who idealise the extremes of the ancient Spartans. Thrilled by the possibility of acceptance and excited by the dangerous games they play, Ben gradually wins his way into the circle. But there is more to the group than he understands, and Ben finds out too late that some things should remain hidden. He must decide where his loyalties lie - before the decision is taken for him. - synopsis from publisher's website.
This was a much more literary novel than I had expected from reading its cover blurb at the library. I perhaps should have realised it given the UK publisher, Faber & Faber, is a well known literary imprint. Its premise brought to mind Donna Tartt's The Secret History as both novels have an outsider desiring to become part of a close-knit group engaged in ancient studies, though in this case the group is not made up of university students but members of an archaeological dig.
Still I am used to my thrillers with a lot more thrills and much less angst. Its protagonist Ben Mercer does a lot of brooding about his failed marriage and his life in general. I did enjoy the sections about ancient Sparta but the novel itself just failed to engage me. Its final reveal felt very anti-climatic rendering the entire experience a disappointment.