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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.


Books by Debra Hamel:

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
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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Labriola, Jerry: The Strange Death of Napoleon Bonaparte

  Amazon  

2 stars

In his didactic novel The Strange Death of Napoleon Bonaparte, Jerry Labriola tells the unlikely story of a (soon to be ex-) Yale history professor, Paul D'Arneau, who is approached by an enigmatic private organization interested in hiring him to investigate the death of Napoloeon: did the Emperor die of natural causes, or was he murdered? The group's offer is more than generous, a six-figure sum in payment for Paul's investigations, with all expenses paid, and the potential for a million-dollar bonus should he uncover something definitive. Paul accepts the job and spends all of two weeks on the investigation, a whirlwind of travel to Paris, Elba, and St. Helena. He meets with the various members of the group that has engaged him and, per their instructions and with their help (so that one wonders why they needed to hire him at all), he talks to a bunch of "histarians"--a loose confederation of amateur historians who are privy to historical information they refuse for some reason to divulge by phone. There is some element that doesn't want Paul to dig into Napoleon's death, so that his trip is not without its dangers. Still, Paul uncovers the truth in the end. It is hard to believe that anyone would conduct a scholarly investigation in the manner here described, but one can't argue with results.

Labriola's book is punctuated by explanatory historical texts--excerpts from Paul's notes, for example--which the author himself predicts readers may want to skip. The book's dialogue is unrealistically formal, and the narrative surrounding it is labored:

"Paul inquired about Jean's work and her general well being and apologized for not having done so during earlier calls.

"'My job's never boring so I'll always like it. And except for missing you, I feel fine. Still a little worried, but fine. Take care, Paul; you sound exhausted. Spread things out. Get some rest.'"

As a piece of fiction, The Strange Death of Napoleon Bonaparte does not succeed. It is more of a fictionalized history lesson, and approached as such it might be of interest to readers curious about matters Napoleonic.

Comments

1.

That's too bad. I think it's great if people want to get nifty information across through fiction, but it still has to be 'readable' as fiction in order to succeed. That's always one of the hardest lessons for eager new writers to learn, it seems.

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