With the same flawless storytelling that earned her the CWA Historical Dagger Award, Barbara Cleverly delivers a dazzling new novel. Sweeping us to the exotic island of Crete in 1928, Cleverly introduces a marvelous new heroine: whip-smart and spirited Laetitia Talbot, an aspiring archaeologist with a passion for adventure-and for the mysteries that only the keenest eyes can see.
Born into a background of British privilege, Laetitia Talbot has been raised to believe there is no field in which she may not excel. She has chosen a career in the male-dominated world of archaeology, but she approaches her first assignment in Crete the only way she knows how-with dash and enthusiasm. Until she enters the Villa Europa, where something is clearly utterly amiss...
Her host, a charismatic archaeologist, is racing to dig up the fabled island's next great treasure-even, perhaps, the tomb of the King of the Gods, himself. But then a beautiful young woman is found hanged and a golden youth drives his Bugatti over a cliff. From out of the shadows come whispers of past loves, past jealousies, and ancient myths that sound an eerie discord with present events. Letty will need all her determination and knowledge to unravel the secrets beneath the Villa Europa's roof-and they will lead her into the darkest, most terrifying place of all....
Dagger Award-winner Cleverly takes a break from her acclaimed Joe Sandilands series (The Bee's Kiss, etc.) to launch another 1920s series, this time with an amateur sleuth protagonist. Laetitia Letty Talbot, a neophyte archeologist, turns detective while visiting Theodore Russell, an authority on Crete's history who's determined to find the tomb of the Greek god Zeus on the island. Letty dislikes Theodore but befriends his frail wife, Phoebe. Soon after, Phoebe hangs herself, an act so out of character that Letty joins forces with the local inspector to probe deeper. When the autopsy reveals that Phoebe was pregnant and Theodore could not have been the father, Letty finds a range of potential suspects in the potential fathers-to-be. A witness to the crime eventually turns up to solve the case, making this less of a puzzler than the Sandilands books, but the crisp writing and depth of characterization should please traditional mystery fans. (Oct.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 29, 2007
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Excerpt from The Tomb of Zeus by Barbara Cleverly
Laetitia Talbot staggered on. She didn't glance back to discover who was calling her name. An abrupt turn of the head would have aggravated the seasickness that racked her; would have made her lose her balance on the slippery deck--might even have provoked a further stomach-wrenching attack of the unproductive retching that had tormented her for a good six hours.
There filtered, through her discomfort, the puzzling thought that she knew no one on the ferry. The only man on the boat who was aware of her existence was the Greek captain and he was unlikely to be chasing after a passenger, fully occupied as he was at the controls in this unexpected squall.
She corrected herself: mad March gale. She corrected herself again: fully blown Greek storm, stirred up personally by Poseidon with his disgusting seaweed-dripping trident. So who would be calling out her name with such confidence? Perhaps she'd failed to notice an acquaintance in her circuits of the deck? She winced at the thought of holding up her end of the conversation that might ensue if she turned around: ". . . Three summers ago . . . at Binkie's coming-out do . . . surely you remember?
You've been in Athens? But why? What on earth can you have been doing there, Letty?"
"Laetitia Talbot?" The English voice came again. Less peremptory. More uncertain. But closer.
Letty sighed and stood still, grasping the metal strut of a lifeboat housing and waited for her pursuer to draw level. A moment later a hand grasped her firmly by her free arm and tucked it under his own. This would have been an unforgivably intimate gesture under normal circumstances, and Letty would have shrugged it off with a sharp comment, but normality, she'd discovered, was suspended on ferryboats. She found she was glad of the unexpected support, and the touch of the rough Scottish tweed jacket was reassuring.
The stranger held out the book she'd carried up on deck with her that morning in a futile attempt at distraction from the horrors of the sea-crossing to Crete.
"You dropped this in a puddle," he said, eyes narrowed against the wind, white teeth gleaming in a friendly grin. Good lord! The man appeared to be relishing the storm. His wet hair was plastered to his skull and seawater dripped from his nose, chin, and eyebrows, but no adverse weather conditions, Letty decided, could detract from the nobility of this young man's jutting features.
She focused woozily on her battered copy of Persuasion.
"I do apologise," she managed to reply politely through gritted teeth, "but I don't believe I know you?"
"You're quite right. We've never met," he admitted cheerfully.
"Then how . . . ?"
"I opened your book and read the name on the front page. So--unless you've stolen this, you are the Laetitia Talbot who received it as a prize in the . . . what did it say? . . ." He flicked the volume open and read in a magisterial tone: "Good Conduct Award--Most Improved Pupil, at the Cambridge Academy for Girls in 1919. 'Improved,' eh? One is bound to speculate as to the less-than-perfect state of affairs that preceded the improvement. So, Miss Talbot, you must forgive me for saying--I feel I know who you are!"
He pressed on before she could protest: "A Sprightly Girl but a Romantic who has matured sufficiently to become an ardent reader of the divine Jane's ripest work--I'm judging by the general dog-eared condition of the book. A volume now rendered quite unreadable by Cretan seawater. I'm hoping you'll reject it with a gesture and say I may keep it. I've never actually read Persuasion, and I hear such good things . . ."
Amused by the teasing formality and enchanted by the striking good looks, Letty smiled for the first time in a very long day. "You may keep it . . . Mr. . . . er . . . Look--shall we consider ourselves introduced by the agency of the prescient Miss Austen?"
"Splendid! I think she'd be amused. And that's the way I shall tell it if anyone asks. My name's Charles St. George Russell. My father is Theodore Russell. At present resident in Herakleion."
He enjoyed her surprise at his announcement and the recognition of his name. "Yes, Laetitia, that Russell. And I'm guessing you are the Miss Talbot who is to be our guest at the Villa Europa . . . if we ever make it into port . . ."
"Gosh! How do you do? You'll have to excuse my trembling--I've never met a saint before."
"Friends just call me George," he answered easily. "I was born on the twenty-third of April so--naturally--named after the patron saint of Cretan shepherds. But we weren't expecting you until next week, Miss Talbot, surely? Do I have that wrong? Look here--I'm about to have a most spectacular motorcar unloaded.