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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
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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:
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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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Malloy, Mary: The Wandering Heart

  Amazon  

4 stars

Lizzie Manning is a historian who's invited by George Hatton to spend some time at his ancestral home--Hengemont, in Somerset, England--researching and cataloging his ancestor's collection. Francis Hatton had sailed with Captain Cook on his second voyage of exploration in the last quarter of the 18th century. He'd collected items of interest along the way, now displayed in the Hatton manse, and had also written a journal which was never published. It's an exciting opportunity for Lizzie, and she leaves her husband behind during her January break from teaching. Arrived at Hengemont, Lizzie finds her aristocratic host perfectly accommodating and one of his sons perfectly charming, but the oldest son, who's due to inherit Hengemont, is alarmingly and inexplicably hostile. Lizzie sets to work on the journal and artifacts at once, but soon runs into two mysteries connected with the Hatton family. The first concerns what was described on the pages that, she finds, have been carefully sliced out of Francis Hatton's journal. The second is connected with a piece of family lore, some seven hundred years old: Elizabeth d'Hautain had jumped to her death off the tower at Hengemont when her husband Jean failed to return from the Crusades. The suicide has haunted successive generations of the Hatton family.

Mary Malloy tells a good story in her debut novel. The mystery of the "curse" of Elizabeth d'Hautain, its echoes over seven centuries, kept me reading. I liked that in the end we weren't required to suspend our disbelief to swallow the story. I found the writing for the most part good and the characters likable and believable. But there is one problem with the book that could prevent me from reading a second Lizzie Manning story (there's a sequel in the works), despite that I enjoyed so much about this one: it needs to be cut down considerably. Malloy, to my mind at least, goes overboard in describing the architectural details of various buildings Lizzie finds herself in. This would be fine if the details were relevant to the story, but they're not, so the narrative is slowed by all the description. There is also a lot of unnecessary ink spilt at the end of the book, after the mysteries are tidily resolved--many pages given to Lizzie and her husband discussing their relationship, for example. I think that much of this could be shaved off. Take 50 or even 100 pages out of this story and it would be a much leaner, more exciting read.

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