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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
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
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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
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Deaver, Jeffery et al.: The Chopin Manuscript

  Amazon  

3 stars

The Chopin Manuscript is a serialized novel written by fifteen different thriller writers, including some of the biggest names in the business: Lee Child, Joseph Finder, Lisa Scottoline, David Hewson, and so on. Jeffery Deaver conceived the story's characters and setting, though from what we're told in my edition's introduction it does not sound as if he controlled the plot, except insofar as he provided the introductory and concluding chapters. An interesting project, certainly, and the story that results manages not to feel as if it's the product of too many hands. If we weren't told that the book was written by multiple authors, I would not have guessed it from the prose style, which seems consistent throughout.

The story, though, does feel as if it needs more room to expand. There are a lot of characters, not always easy to keep straight, and none of them is fleshed out enough for us to care about them. While the story has its good moments--the opening scene in which piano tuner Henryk Jedynak is interrupted at work is memorable, for example--it never manages to excite. In part this is because we're not invested in the characters. But it's also because it's never very clear what's going on or what the stakes are for the various players. Having just finished the book, I'd be hard-pressed to cough up a good summary: suffice it to say that one-time war crimes investigator Harry Middleton is in possession of the manuscript of the book's title, which turns out to be more valuable than he has supposed. People are after it and are leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them, most of them having been shot in the face--the preferred mode of death in the book.

The Chopin Manuscript is packaged in my edition together with its sequel, The Copper Bracelet, a single volume entitled Watchlist. Many of the same authors contributed chapters to the sequel, which again features Harry Middleton and, as the jacket copy tells me, involves an international terror plot and a potential nuclear war between India and Pakistan. But as exciting as that sounds, I think I'll probably be skipping the sequel.

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