Friday, July 29, 2016

A Dead Man in Athens: Review

A Dead Man in Athens by Michael Pearce is set in Greece during 1912. The country is on the brink of war and there is much unrest--tension between the Greeks and the Ottoman Empire; tension between the older Greeks who have seen enough of war and the young, eager Greek men who want to prepare for war and want to use the new aircraft, the French BlĂ©riot machines, to help in the impending hostilities; and tensions surrounding the exiled former Sultan who is living in Salonica. 

When the ex-Sultan's beloved cat is poisoned, he believes that it was just a trial-run for an attempt on himself and creates quite a fuss. The British Consulate, as a more neutral party in the area, offers to bring in a detective to investigate the matter discreetly and send for Inspector Seymour of Scotland Yard. The Yard man who is well-known for his skill as a detective as well as his command of several languages has investigated several odd crimes in various far-flung areas of the world. But this is the first time he's been asked to investigate the death of a cat. Then the ex-Sultan begins having intense stomach cramps and it looks like he may have been right about the true target. But what about the death of a British man who was involved with the new aircraft? Does that connect somehow to the poisonings in the Sultan's household? Seymour will have to find out.

Once again Pearce does an excellent job evoking the time and place for his historical mystery. His descriptions are brief but the reader has a definite understanding of the tensions building in this area of the world just prior to the First World War. We are also given a nice peek at a harem--both the general operations and the machinations at work amongst the inmates. He tends to  devote a great deal of time to dialogue and tangible clues aren't exactly thick on the ground but he does sprinkle enough hints throughout the conversation that one can (and I did) identify the culprit.  

I did find the poisoning of the cat to be interesting. Apparently (it hasn't been entirely clarified), the poison was in the milk. But the cat smelled it and rejected the milk until it was fed candies with marzipan which somehow dulled the sense of smell to the extent that it later drank the milk. Was this a two-part plan? Was the marzipan fed to the cat on purpose and, if so, was the poison really in the chocolates? I found myself more intrigued by the cat's death than the attempt on the ex-Sultan and the death of the British man.....Another solid entry in the historical series. ★★★ 

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I don't know if this is for me, especially if the cat dying held more interest than anything else.