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The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby

December 06, 2010  Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft   61 Comments

Update: Comments closed, winner selected!

pericles commissionHere I insert my standard disclaimer: I target my book reviews to novelists.

Also, if you would like to win a FREE copy of The Pericles Commission, comment on this post. I will select a commenter at random and mail you the copy. You need only to have a valid postal address somewhere in the world. The contest ends December 13 at noon, Pacific Time.

The Pericles Commission is a wonderful debut novel by researcher and writer Gary Corby. A murder mystery set in ancient Greece, the novel is also a political thriller, a coming-of-age-story and a cultural study all in one tight, little, whirlwind package of historical mystery goodness.

And Corby pulls it off masterfully.

Thus, I give you a disclaimer. If you are a novelist who likes to write murder mysteries (as I do), this book will make your head spin. Corby’s artistic creativity at putting a mystery together has the capability of frying your poor writer brain if you attempt to deconstruct the novel beyond its entertainment value.

The plot goes like this:

Early one bright, clear morning in Athens, 461 B.C., a dead man falls from the sky, landing at the feet of Nicolaos.

It doesn’t normally rain corpses. This one is the politician Ephialtes, who only days before had turned Athens into a democracy, and with it, kick-started western civilization. It looks very much as if Ephialtes was assassinated to stifle the world’s first democracy at its birth.

But Ephialtes has a lieutenant: a rising young politician by the name of Pericles. Pericles commissions the clever young Nicolaos to expose the assassin.

Nicolaos walks the mean streets of classical Athens in search of a killer. He’s totally confident he’ll succeed in finding him.

There are only a few small problems. Pericles is looking over his shoulder, critiquing his every move. Nicolaos would like to get closer (much closer) to Diotima, the intelligent and annoyingly virgin priestess of Artemis. He’d prefer not to go near Pythax, the brutally tough chief of the city guard. It would definitely help if the main suspect weren’t Xanthippus, a leading conservative and, worst of all, the father of Pericles.

But most of all, what Nicolaos really needs is to shake off his irritating twelve-year-old brother, Socrates, who keeps making helpful suggestions.

Can Nicolaos save Athens, democracy, and the future of western civilization?

Oh, how I loved Nicolaos, and Corby’s voicing with his main character leaves a reader not so much seeing the wonders of ancient Greece through his eyes, but living it in a visceral, immersive escapism that I had not experienced in a murder mystery since Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Realtime.

There is a certain purity in murder mysteries. There’s a dead body. Sometimes more. The stakes are high, and beyond the expert voicing and characterization, the gem of The Pericles Commission is its sheer relentlessness.  For this novel is relentless in the stakes. Corby ratchets them up again and again and again until a reader is left almost panting with tension, reading furiously as nothing so much as the fate of humanity is on the line.

This novel happily dances around thriller territory and simply calling it a historical murder mystery is an understatement.  If you are a writer, don’t let the fabulous research blind you, or the mesmerizing voicing nor the purity of how the setting comes alive. Never has a historical book been so much fun to read. It was intelligent escapism at its highest form, and that, dear writers, was simply awesome. The Pericles Commission is not so much a novel as it is crack for mystery lovers.

Don’t forget to comment below to win a chance at a free copy!

61 comments on: The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby

  1. C. N. Nevets December 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I can’t wait to read this. I have a copy, but my wife’s gotten to read it first! She loved it so we’re going to probably give another copy to at least one relative for Christmas. As a long-time reader now of Gary’s blog and Twitter, I know how smart he is and how snappy a way he has with words.

    Can’t wait for the day I get to say, “Gary Corby? Yeah, I used to leave smart alec comments on his blog back in the day.”

    • Anthony December 6, 2010 at 6:39 pm

      I met him in person at a book signing in Seattle and he is the nicest guy!

      It’s great that a researcher can be so creative and talented when it comes to storytelling.

  2. J.C December 6, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    sounds delicious, and like something I need to read!

  3. Rachael de Vienne December 7, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Oh my. If I’d know he was going to be in Seattle, I’d have found a way there. …

    The finding Gary adventure was one of the highlights of my internet life. His email died. Janet couldn’t find him, but she sent me his pages. Such lovely pages. I started looking on line. (all of that is still over on Janet’s blog).

    And finally, the missing gary turned up. Not only did he turn up, but he LIKES Pixie Warrior. I haven’t bought the book yet. Gimme the BoooK! [giggles] He told me I’m mentioned on the acknowledgments page, but they don’t have the book in the local B and N yet. So I haven’t seen that.

    Gary is 1. very talented; 2. an excellent writer; 3. a very nice person and 4. has one of the best blogs out there.

    The only drawback to Gary is that he eats odd stuff. I forgot what it’s called. It’s the Australian version of Marmite. If you can eat it and not die, you are a real man (or woman as the case may be)!

    • Anthony December 7, 2010 at 9:57 am

      The story of the Missing Gary is quite endearing. An internet legend in the making, for sure.

    • Jessica Denoire December 11, 2010 at 8:29 pm

      I think you’re talking about Vegemite? And it’s not too bad – if you ever get the chance to have it again, eat it with cheese and margarine/butter. (Random comment is random.)

      And I don’t normally read historical fiction, but this sounds like it’ll be an amazing read–must remember to find a copy of it!


  4. fivecats December 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

    okay, you’ve convinced me. hand me a free copy and i’ll read it! : )

    — Tom

  5. Sarah December 7, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this!

  6. lena hillbrand December 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

    that sounds amazing. i can’t wait to read this!

  7. Tui Head December 7, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Sounds like a fun revisiting of the lindsay davis concept. Awesome!

  8. Amy Tripp December 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Sounds brilliant – I’ll have to give it a read. Thanks!

  9. Leslie Nagel December 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Anything that makes my head spin is on my must read list. As an aspiring mystery writer who uses 100 words where one would probably do, I grasp desperately at the taut, the tight, and the breathless.
    And that goes for writing, too.

    • Anthony December 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      He he he!

  10. Sarah December 7, 2010 at 11:49 am

    This story looks so fun. I tried to find a copy, but have been unsuccessful as of today… maybe I’ll have to try ordering it online.

  11. Penelope December 7, 2010 at 11:55 am

    This sounds fantastic! I’d love to win this book!

  12. Rick December 7, 2010 at 11:58 am

    This sounds right up my alley. I can’t wait to read it, and I’d love the chance to win it!

  13. Tara Tyler December 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I love the synopsis – can’t wait to dive into ancient greece, myself, and live to tell about it.

  14. Jordan December 7, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    The book sounds wonderful, and I enjoyed your review—that’s just what I think when I read excellent murder mysteries!

    (And I think the Australian version of Marmite is Vegemite.)

    • Anthony December 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Vegemite. Uh. Yeah. Something that should never leave the jar. Ever.

      • Leonie Corby December 7, 2010 at 6:36 pm

        Ah, you’re all wimps, Australian kids grow up with Vegemite 🙂

        PS Gary is my big brother and I’m really proud of him… no, not because he eats Vegemite, because of his book.

        • Rachael de Vienne December 7, 2010 at 8:27 pm

          Stronger, wiser, able to leap small car at two hops! All because of Vegemite!

          Tell your big brother hi from the Pixie! And remind him he promised me a guest post for my blog.

          Rachael de Vienne
          aka/ sha’el, princess of pixies

  15. Marjorie December 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Socrates? I am in.

  16. Jaime Callahan December 7, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I have been hearing about this novel everywhere! The reviews have all been really good too. Clearly I need to read it. I’ll definitely put it on my wishlist.

  17. Jared Larson December 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Sounds like a fascinating read. I can’t wait!

  18. Cyndi December 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Socrates at 12?! And dead bodies to boot? Count me in –

    • Anthony December 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      I loved loved loved Socrates at 12.

  19. Joelle Anthony December 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    So excited about this book!

  20. Jake December 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I imagine the opening reading like the lovechild of Raymond Chandler & Mary Renault:
    “It was about midday, end of harvest, with the sun-dial covered in shadow, and a look for hard wet rain in the clearness of the Parthenon. I was wearing my powder-blue cloak, with dark blue chiton, belt and display kolpos, black sandals, with dark blue gnomons on them. I was oiled, clean, strigiled and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-girded sophist ought to be. I was calling on four million drachma.”

    • Anthony December 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      Actually, I’ve used the opening of this book to discuss voicing and characterization. In fact, it’s the best book opener of 2010 so far.

      • Jake December 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm

        I’m sold.

  21. Alli December 7, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I’ve been following the history of Gary’s leap into publishing via his blog and his agent’s. It’s all very exciting and the book itself sounds amazing. It is definitely going to be in my TBR pile!

  22. Alli December 7, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Oh, and I had Vegemite on toast this morning. 🙂

    • Anthony December 7, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      Ha! Did you brush your teeth afterward? Twice? :-p

  23. Marie Rearden December 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I’ve been hearing so much about this book. How can I NOT enter to win? 🙂

  24. dylan December 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Anthony RHW

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since Janet Reid was searching for Gary Corby.

    If an in-demand agent is THAT motivated to find a gone-missing author, I wanna read THAT author’s book.


  25. Beth December 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    This sounds like a fun book. Even the cover looks fun.

  26. S.D. December 7, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Ooh! Pick me!

  27. Cathi December 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I would love to read this book, and live somewhere in the world, so I qualify!

  28. Beth December 7, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I left sweet little hints in lunch bags, taped to bathroom mirrors and in jacket pockets; alas, my birthday came and went without The Pericles Commission. Now, I’m hoping for a bit of Christmas cash so I can buy it for myself. One way or another, come December 27th, this book is gonna be mine.

  29. Emily December 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I’ve been waiting to read this book ever since Janet Reid first blogged about it. Thanks for the opportunity, just in time for Christmas!

  30. Germaine Dulac December 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Oh, I do love a good murder mystery. This one sounds especially interesting. Thanks for the review!

  31. brookefav December 7, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I would love to win a copy of your book. Congrats.

    • Anthony December 7, 2010 at 9:59 pm

      Just to be clear, that would be Gary’s book.

      My book isn’t for sale… yet.

  32. Brandi December 8, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Aw, I love Gary Corby. His blog is my favorite author blog, and I’d love to get my hands on a copy of the Pericles Commission, sadly I’m a poor broke student/starving artist.

  33. Joseph Mello December 8, 2010 at 7:18 am

    This novel sounds sweet. I like historical fiction, since my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Schofield read us some back in ’74. I also like ancient civilizations and history. I’d love to check out a mystery thriller form this period!

  34. Lizzie December 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I’d like to win a copy of the book.

  35. Stacy Chambers December 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    This novel sounds awesome!

  36. Diane December 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I just finished reading our library’s copy at lunch–a longer lunch than planned because I couldn’t put the book down. Great book. I’d like to read it again.

  37. Doris Goodwin December 8, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I hope to be reminded of Agatha and her books that covered so many places where we learned so much and loved the books we read again and again.

  38. Susan Coventry December 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve been waiting for this book. I’d love to read it! I’ve been looking for a new historical mystery series to get addicted to.

  39. Rebecca December 9, 2010 at 8:09 am


    The game is afoot.

    My lame comment aside, this sounds like an amazing book.

  40. Jen McAndrews December 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    A fabulous review that makes me all the more eager to get my hands on this book!! So excited!

    • Anthony December 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      I deleted your duplicate comment. If you’ve never commented on my blog before, the spam system asks me to approve each one. On Friday’s I am out with the boys eating steak. 🙂

  41. Darastrix December 10, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I definitely want to give this book a read.

  42. Michael G-G December 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    You can’t go wrong with raining corpses or annoying virgin priestesses! Count me in!

  43. Christy December 12, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Oooo-count me in!

  44. Pingback: One Day Left to Win The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby! « Anthony Pacheco: Rehabilitated Hack Writer

  45. CKHB December 14, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I’m in!

  46. Pingback: And the Winner of the Book Giveaway Is: « Anthony Pacheco: Rehabilitated Hack Writer

  47. Pingback: 2010 in review « Anthony Pacheco: Rehabilitated Hack Writer

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