Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sacred Games by Gary Corby: A review

I had looked forward to reading this book which I won in a Goodreads giveaway. It is the third in a mystery series set in ancient Greece and I had greatly enjoyed the first two entries in the series.

Then, only a few pages into the book, I read something that made me want to toss the tome across the room. Tell me, do you see anything wrong with this sentence?
"He'd seen Timo and I play together when we were children."
THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF MY ABSOLUTE NUMBER ONE PET PEEVE IN WRITING! The use of the subjective pronoun, "I," as an object just sets my teeth on edge, like fingernails scraping on a blackboard. Unfortunately for the state of my psyche, it is becoming more and more common, even with writers who should know better.

Halfway through the book, there it was again.
"Men about us gave him room, and he slid in to join us, with Markos to his left and I to his right." 
What writer in his right mind would write sentences that say "He'd seen I play..." or "...with I to his right..."? So what is it about that magic conjunction "and" that makes it okay to flout this basic rule of grammar?

Oh, well, I was reading an "advance uncopyedited edition" of the book. Maybe these errors will be fixed in the editing process.

("Don't count on it," says my copy editor spouse.)

Well, I didn't throw Corby's latest across the room, even though I was tempted. I kept reading and found he had told a pretty good story.

His tale takes place at the 80th Olympiad in 460 B.C.E. We again meet private investigator Nicolaos and his frequent employer Pericles. It seems that a murder has taken place. One of the competitors in the pankration, the deadly martial art of ancient Greece, a Spartan named Arakos, has been killed. 

Suspicion immediately falls on another pankration competitor, Timodemus, an Athenian. There had been bad blood between the two and they had clashed in public during the Olympic procession. Timodemus is accused and locked up. Pericles wants him cleared so that he can compete in the pankration and, incidentally, so that a war between Athens and Sparta can be averted. He hires Nico for the job.

Now, it happens that Timodemus is Nico's best friend, and the Judges of the Games decide to appoint Nico and a Spartan, Markos, to investigate the murder and arrive at a conclusion. They have four days to find the truth, else Timodemus will be executed.

As usual in these books, Corby has managed to weave in a lot of information about ancient Greece and about the Olympic Games and I found this to be an interesting read from that standpoint. I was particularly interested in the status of women and the role that they played in this story and in the society of that time. 

Timo has a partner - his fiancee`/wife Diotima - who is a priestess of Artemis and a very liberated woman for that time. She is also the brains of the partnership. We also get to meet the dowager Queen of Sparta, Gorgo, widow of Leonidas, the leader of the 300 Spartans of Thermopylae fame. It is very interesting how Corby works real historical Greeks into the fabric of his story. Nico's 12 year old brother, for example, is named Socrates!  

Overall, this was another entertaining visit to ancient Greece. I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been seething with irritation over encountering my pet peeves in print.

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