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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
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

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)

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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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Walters, Minette: The Echo

  Amazon  

3.5 stars

The mystery is, why would a homeless man seek out the residence of a certain Amanda Powell, an apparent stranger, and starve himself to death in the privacy of her garage within a few feet of a full freezer? The dead man in question was one Billy Blake, an apparently well-educated, 60-something (by the look of him) drunk, an occasional thief and, by his own admission, a one-time murderer. Billy slept in an abandoned warehouse by the river with a bunch of others in similar straits. He preached redemption, raved like a lunatic when he was drunk, mortified his flesh occasionally, and acted as mentor to an intelligent but under-educated homeless minor.

The case of Billy's death interests journalist Michael Deacon, the principal character of Minette Walters's The Echo. Michael winds up investigating the connections between Billy's death and a pair of celebrated disappearances: the embezzler James Streeter, who may have been murdered, and the diplomat Peter Fenton, who vanished after his wife killed herself. Walters's story is complex and not always easy to follow, though the plot is summarized neatly at the end so that one puts the book down, at least, with a fairly clear sense of what happened in it.

The book is, on the one hand, very impressive: Walters has created a very credible world, peopled by credible characters. Reading it is rather like watching one of those gritty British police dramas in which the characters all have heavy accents and you're not really sure what's going on, but the acting's so good that you keep watching. (In fact, The Echo was made into a BBC1 drama in 1998; I haven't seen it, though, so don't know whether it's in fact just that sort of gritty police drama.) The problem with the book, however, is that reading it is such hard work. The book, even though only 338 pages long, feels close to interminable. This isn't helped by the inclusion of a number of transcribed articles and letters within the text that are both dull, for the most part, and written in a minuscule font. The appearance of one such eight-page section at the end of the first chapter--it purports to be an excerpt from a book about unsolved mysteries--is apt to scare away a lot of potential readers.

In sum, a rewarding read if you have the stamina for it. But you might want to have a second book--something frothy and fun--going at the same time.

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