November 11, 2011

A Stressed Out Athenian Detective

Nicolaos, the only private investigator in ancient Athens, has a problem. The Ephesian ambassador is dead, and Nicolaos let the murderer get away. Pericles, the ruler of Athens--who first hired Nico in The Pericles Commission--has threatened to fire him unless he can fix the problem. The sole clue to the killer's whereabouts lies with his former slave, Asia, so Nicolaos buys her, whereupon she reveals to him that she is only a slave because she was kidnapped; furthermore, she is the daughter of Themistocles, who was the hero of Athens until he defected to the enemy and became a powerful diplomat within the Persian Empire.

Pericles sends Nicolaos to Ephesus, a Greek enclave in the Persian Empire, to hunt for the killer and do a little spying on Themistocles. Nico is more than eager to go since the luscious Diotima, the woman he loves, is currently serving as priestess at the temple of Artemis there. Although angry that Nico is traveling with Asia, she agrees to help him, and the three head for the home of Themistocles, where they find a hotbed of conspiracy, sex, gluttony and torture.

The characters are quarrelsome, clever and sometimes downright funny as they keep backstabbing one another, forming new alliances, and speaking in double entendres. Amidst all this, Nico must decide where his loyalties lie while there's still time to stop the Persians from invading Athens. Full of real historical figures and fascinating insights into Greek and Persian culture, The Ionia Sanction is a delightful romp.

I really liked this book. Nicolaos is a very engaging character, and I enjoyed that his friends and family were actual ancient Greeks -- including his pesky, philosophical little brother Socrates! The Ionia Sanction made me laugh out loud several times, and I learned a lot about Greek and Persian culture (even more than I wanted to in terms of the way Persians normally tortured criminals, shudder). I hope there will be many more mysteries in this series.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Maybe not. Unless she doesn't mind a little torture and S & M.

Do you know much about ancient Greece? I'm realizing now how long ago sixth grade ancient cultures really was...

This review originally appeared (in slightly shorter form) in Shelf Awareness. The post contains Amazon affiliate links.