A Darker God: A Laetitia Talbot Mystery

Written by Barbara Cleverly
Review by Jeanne Greene

In her third lively Laetitia Talbot mystery, author Barbara Cleverly tosses her would-be archeologist into the mixing pot that was 1928 Athens—a city still seething with post-war resentments. Fresh from a dig in Crete, Letty arrives in time to see her mentor and former lover, Andrew Merriman, an eminent British scholar, in an amateur production of Agamemnon; but when Dionysus, the dark god, demands a sacrifice, Merriman is killed. Shortly after, Merriman’s wife falls to her death, and Letty is drawn into a dual murder investigation that becomes uniquely personal when she is mistaken for Merriman’s daughter. To avoid becoming the third victim of what may be a blood feud, Letty, who knows her ancient mythology, turns to the play book for answers.

A Darker God has a little romance, one or two tasty surprises, and a mystery will keep readers guessing. Cleverly is a deft plotter. Her settings feel right because they’re based on sound historical research, but she doesn’t overdo early 20th-century chatter. The characters in A Darker God are colorful and (mostly) believable, but undeveloped. Letty lacks the smooth style of Cleverly’s series star, Joe Sandilands, but readers will like her more if they get to know her better. Bright Hair about the Bone (2008), written first but published second, and The Tomb of Zeus (2007) answer questions about Letty’s past. But all are standalones; start anywhere.

Fans of Cleverly’s prizewinning Joe Sandilands series (Strange Images of Death, 2010) will enjoy the Laetitia Talbot mysteries and vice versa. A Darker God is highly recommended for all readers who like their mysteries (relatively) non-violent and more challenging than cozy.