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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Wolstencroft, David: Good News, Bad News

  Amazon  

4 stars

The first chapter of David Wolstencroft's Good News, Bad News promises great things: two unnamed men flip a coin--the first indication that the book's plot will hang on the vicissitudes of chance--to determine which of them is going to die. Surprisingly, the loser of the toss does not seem unduly put out by the result. In chapter two we are introduced to Wolstencroft's two main characters, Charlie, the younger of the two, and George, "a baked potato of a man" given to spouting the plots of locked room mysteries at odd moments. Both men are relatively new employees of a photo lab situated in the "troglodyte empire" of the London Underground. Charlie, at least, is convinced that one of their regular customers, a gorgeous woman whose photographs suggest she trots the globe at breakneck pace, is a spy. The two men bicker regularly over the implications of her suspicious photography.

The opening chapters of Good News, Bad News are very good indeed, suspenseful, well-written, and humorous. (I was sold on the book after the first half page.) The interaction between Charlie and George is especially good, Charlie attempting in vain to ignore the older man's "endless and near-psychotic amiability." In the course of the novel Charlie and George come to discover that they have more in common than they--or we--had supposed, including, in particular, that both are interested in quitting their jobs.

But while Wolstencroft's novel starts extremely well, it does not quite live up to the promise of its introduction. As Charlie and George's situation becomes more dire, the humor of their early intercourse is dropped. And while there are patches of exquisite prose early on in the book, the writing becomes less noticeably good--if never bad--later on. Nor will readers be glued to their seats awaiting the book's outcome. It is certainly a good enough book to continue with, but it does not build the sort of suspense that keeps one up reading late into the night.

Despite these reservations, Good News, Bad News comes recommended. Wolstencroft (he is the writer and creator of the spy drama MI-5, which airs on A&E) is clearly a writer to watch.

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