Title: Shadows of Athens
Author: J.M. Alvey
Publisher: Orion Publishing
Publication Date: 7 March 2019
Facebook: JM Alvey
I am delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for J.M. Alvey’s debut novel, Shadows of Athens.
443 BC. After decades of war with Persia, peace has finally come to Athens. The city is being rebuilt, and commerce and culture are flourishing.
Aspiring playwright Philocles has come home to find a man with his throat cut slumped against his front gate. Is it just a robbery gone wrong? If so, why didn’t the thieves take the dead man’s valuables? With the play that could make his name just days away, he must find out who this man is, why he has been murdered – and why the corpse was left in his doorway.
But Philocles soon realises he is now caught up in something far bigger than a burglary gone awry, and there are those who don’t want him digging any further…
Thank you to Orion Publishing for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.
Shadows of Athens is historical mystery centred around playwright Philocles. I get the impression that it is intended to be the first book in a new series.
After a years of war with Persia, Athens is finally at peace and looking forward to the start of the Dionysia festival, a theatrical festival in which playwrights compete to entertain the citizens of Athens. All of Athens comes to a halt whilst its citizens flood daily to the amphitheatres to drink wine, worship their gods and enjoy the performances. The festival provides a great background to the tale, providing context for the mystery whilst also delivering interesting social, religious and political commentary for the reader.
Unfortunately for Philocles, instead of being able to enjoy the festival and focus on the success of his play, a dead body at his gate sees him unwillingly thrown into a mystery of violence, treachery, treason and murder!
It is a story that leads the reader right into the heart of ancient Athens. The author certainly seems to know his subject well and, as a result, the book has a great sense of place but in a way that makes the refreshingly different setting accessible to us modern-day readers. I am by no means an expert in early Greek history, yet the historical details (of the food, the clothing, the social hierarchy etc.) gave the story a real sense of authenticity which leads me to believe that a lot of research and effort has been put in to recreating a historically accurate depiction of ancient Athens for the reader.
Philocles is a decent character – intelligent, engaging and falliable – and the supporting characters proved to be equally as interesting. I particularly liked Philocles’ partner, Zosime, who is beautiful, independent and lets nothing phase her. She’s a strong woman and I hope we see more of her if the author does continue the series.
The story is interesting, witty and proceeds at good pace. There is a underlying sense of humour to the writing that I enjoyed and which did not detract in any way from the seriousness of the overall story.
I must be honest and admit that it took me a few chapters to really settle into the book, whilst getting the different characters straight in my head. However I quickly found myself absorbed into the story. In my opinion the author found the perfect balance, giving just enough helpful historical/background information, without veering into the trap of giving too much information and causing the tale to become too dry and factual.
Shadows of Athens is an interesting and entertaining read that will appeal to fans of both crime fiction and historical fiction. If you enjoy a novel by David Wishart, Lindsey Davis or C J Sansom, then this may well be a book that you should be adding to your reading list!
About the Author
J M Alvey studied Classics at Oxford in the 1980s. As an undergraduate, notable achievements in startling tutors included citing the comedic principles of Benny Hill in a paper on Aristophanes and using military war-gaming rules to analyse and explain apparent contradictions in historic accounts of the Battle of Thermopylae. Crime fiction was always relaxation reading and that love of mysteries and thrillers continued through a subsequent, varied career, alongside an abiding fascination with history and the ancient world. These interests have all now come together in the first adventure of Philocles Hestaiou, comic playwright and pen for hire in classical Athens.
If Shadows of Athens has caught your attention, why not check out the other stops on this blog tour. Details as listed below.