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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
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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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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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Alda, Alan: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed | Main | Williams, Rose: The Labors of Aeneas »

Olson, Karen E.: Sacred Cows

  

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Mysterious Press © 2005, 290 pages [amazon]
4.5 stars

The girl's body is found in the middle of the night, draped over the sidewalk in front of University Towers in New Haven. Annie Seymour arrives at the scene early, disheveled and hung over but ready to pry what information she can from the policemen on the scene, including the one she'd been sleeping with an hour earlier. Annie, the protagonist of Karen Olson's debut novel Sacred Cows, is the police reporter for the New Haven Herald. (The Herald is a fictional stand-in for the author's real-life employer, the New Haven Register. Olson is the newspaper's travel editor.) Annie has been on the paper's cop beat for four years, but her investigation into this case will mark new territory for her. It is, for one thing, a political hot potato. The deceased is quickly identified as a Yale undergraduate, sophomore Melissa Peabody. The Yale connection means that the Herald will be under considerable pressure from both school and local officials to downplay the seedier aspects of the case. This won't be easy, as the case turns out to be very seedy indeed. Melissa Peabody's murder winds up involving an escort service, and Annie's investigation leads her to uncover some dirty laundry in City Hall itself. The man behind the dirt is New Haven's assistant corporation counsel, Mark Torrey, who was with Melissa on the night she died and may well have killed her. He may kill Annie as well: he is at least not above attempting to silence her by violent means once she gets too close to the truth. Compounding these complications is Annie's personal life: her relationship with the detective working the case amounts to a huge conflict of interest for both of them.

The cows annoy Annie by their mere presence in town, particularly after she is ordered to report on their doings for the paper.Sacred Cows is the first book in what will evidently be a series of Annie Seymour mysteries, and I for one am pleased. Annie is a strong enough character to anchor a series--likeable, but imperfect and given to obscenity and pleasantly curmudgeonly. (After studiously avoiding meeting her neighbors for years, she laments finally coming face-to-face with the people who share her Wooster Square brownstone. "I would have to say hello on the stairs, let them into the building if they forgot their keys, help them with grocery bags. Oh, God, I might have to move.") Much of Annie's cantankerousness is directed at Dick Whitfield, an annoyingly eager but otherwise inoffensive cub reporter type who follows her around puppy-like on this investigation in the hopes of making a name for himself. But others catch Annie's wrath as well--her society matron-cum-successful attorney mother; the mysterious winking man she keeps running into, a sexy Frank Sinatra look-alike who seems to know her; and not least the cows of the book's title, the herd of painted fiberglass bovine statues that descends on New Haven in the middle of the story. The cows annoy Annie by their mere presence in town, particularly after she is ordered to report on their doings for the paper. (Olson takes Annie's negative reaction to the cows a hair's breadth too far when she describes her as giving one particular cow, dressed in doctor's scrubs, a wide berth: "I took a deep breath and got out [of the car], careful not to get too close to the Doctor Cow. You never know when you'll end up in the Twilight Zone and one of those things would come charging at you.") Apart from their role as focal point for Annie's annoyance, the cows don't contribute much to the storyline, though  I suspect the book's title refers as much to Yale's position in New Haven as it does to the fiberglass beasts themselves.

Olson writes well, and her plot is for the most part credible, though two of the book's details struck me as unlikely: that Annie would buzz someone into her apartment without finding out first who it is when she has every reason to believe someone is trying to kill her, and--more incredible yet--that a librarian working at the circulation desk of Yale's Sterling Memorial Library would be able to point to where a particular undergraduate is studying in the cavernous building when asked. But that Yale's library and colleges provide the backdrop to Olson's mystery is a fact to be celebrated. As a New Haven-area resident myself, I very much appreciate the local flavor with which Olson imbues her book: pizza and the Peabody Museum, Atticus Books and Willoughby's and Sleeping Giant State Park. I look forward to Annie Seymour's next appearance on the local authors table at Atticus.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.