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Books by the Blogger:

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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paperback | hardcover (UK)

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:

  

« Hamden Historical Society: Hamden (Images of America) | Main | Now I'm Angry: Terence Lee's Time Camera »

Napier, Bill: Splintered Icon

  

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St. Martin's © 2003, 360 pages [amazon]
4 stars

In the introductory chapters of Bill Napier's Splintered Icon Harry Blake, an antiquarian bookseller, is hired by local aristocrat Sir Toby Tebbit to translate an Elizabethan manuscript that is written in some kind of code. The task would be straightforward enough--and in fact Blake has little trouble deciphering the text when he settles down to the task--but Sir Toby's mysterious behavior suggests there is more to the manuscript than meets the eye. Harry soon discovers, too, that other people are anxious to get their hands on the text.

In the middle chapters, however, the book slows, while Blake and Zola Khan, a historian Harry's persuaded to help him, discuss the secret purpose of Ogilvie's expedition and drop erudite references to intellectual and religious history.The manuscript Blake translates turns out to be the journal of a certain James Ogilvie, who left Scotland at the age of fifteen--armed with a pike and a translation of Plutarch--and wound up taking part in an expedition to the New World in 1585. Ogilvie discovers somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that the expedition he's joined has some secret purpose, one which has implications for Harry Blake and the rest of the modern world.

The action of Napier's book alternates between the present and past, with the modern story interrupted by large chunks from the journal, thirty to forty pages at a time. In effect Napier has written two independent stories, as Ogilvie's narrative, in expanded form, could easily stand alone as historical fiction. The historical part of Napier's book never fails to keep readers interested--though one might argue that the story is too polished to be credible as the hurried translation into modern vernacular of an Elizabethan text. The modern-day story that frames Ogilvie's is less consistently successful. It starts very well. Blake's introduction to Sir Toby and the manuscript holds great promise, and a couple of early sentences in the book are gems. ("Mozart took me on a long, slow crawl around Birmingham and on to the M40, and some mid-Atlantic DJ with ten times my income drivelled me towards Oxford.") The book ends pretty well, too, the characters beset by all manner of difficulties and interacting believably with one another--though their solution of the riddle that Ogilvie's journal poses comes too easily. In the middle chapters, however, the book slows, while Blake and Zola Khan, a historian Harry's persuaded to help him, discuss the secret purpose of Ogilvie's expedition and drop erudite references to intellectual and religious history. Their interaction here often does not seem natural. Perhaps the middle section of the book should have been expanded, with more action scenes interjected among the expository passages to keep things interesting.

But it is worth reading through the hump because, as I said, the book gets better. Fans of literate historical thrillers should give this one a look.

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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.