My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was lucky enough to win an ARC. It's always hard coming into a mystery mid-series but usually you can catch up quick (and I did). I'm also very iffy about historical mysteries using real people because so often it doesn't match what I know of them (or at least how I think they'd act). No such fears here. This was just so much fun. It was hard to put the book down and go about my daily business.
Nicolaos "Nico" and his ex-priestess fiancee, Diotima, are once again employed by Pericles (yes that Pericles) to look into a mysterious skull and scroll case sent from the priestesses at the all-girls school, Brauron. It seems that the skull might just be the skull of Hippias, a tyrant ruler of Greece who died about three decades ago at the infamous Battle of Marathon. It is old news (especially if you consider the life spans of people in this era) but two young girls had discovered it. One was found torn to pieces and the other is missing.
In Athens, it's election time and everyone, including Pericles, is claiming to have killed Hippias since they would be a hero. Nico would rather be spending his time preparing for his wedding and trying to get his pay out of Pericles who has yet to give him a bent drachma. Diotima, on the other hand, is happy to help because Brauron was her school.
When they get there she is greeted by Doris, her mentor and Thea, the head priestess. She receives a less warm welcome from the conniving Sabina and the half-mad appearing priestess, Gais, who seems to have it out for her old classmate.
The mystery weaves back and forth from Marathon to Brauron to Athens, with its roots firmly in history. Nico has no shortage of possible suspects for killing Hippias but as for the murdered girl, he is coming up with nothing. Even her father doesn't want him looking into it, striking him as very strange.
It's a layered and exciting mystery. Nico and Diotima are delightful characters (though I kept waiting for her to put an arrow in Nico every time his eye wanders a bit). Nico's kid brother, Socrates (yes, that Socrates) is a hoot and a half. There is a great deal of humor in this. On the negative side, occasionally there is an anachronistic feel to some of it. Mostly it's played for humor and I didn't mind that. Other times, not so much, like when Nico refers to someone as a creeper. Creepy, I could handle. That's an old word but I associate 'creeper' with the 21st century.
That however is minor. I can't wait to see more of Nico and Diotima. This book is well researched with tons of historical notes at the end. I enjoyed it so much I'm going to do something I rarely do, track down the earlier books (even if I know how some of the things have turned out). Enjoyed this to pieces.
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