A Dead Man in Athens

Written by Michael Pearce
Review by Nina de Angeli

Athens in 1912 combines goat herds parading through dusty streets, Balkan political tensions, threats of war with Turkey, Bleriot flying machines in the air, and of course the eternal Parthenon majestically crowning the Acropolis. Scotland Yard detective Seymour arrives and asks British Embassy staff why he was summoned from London to investigate the mysterious poisoning of an exiled Turkish sultan’s pet cat. Seymour, a multilingual second-generation Briton from an East End immigrant neighborhood, is an outsider at the Yard – not quite English enough – but useful for foreign assignments. For this one he speaks Greek learned from an East End neighbor.

Embassy instructions are designed to cool the Greek-Turkish conflict. Is the cat’s death part of a harem power struggle, or a dry run for a political assassination? And what about the young men and their flying machines, threatened with sabotage and murder? Pearce gives Seymour much of the world-weary wit and irony of the Anglo-Egyptian detective in his Mamur Zapt series, producing a breezy, touristy read with a low-key mystery. Third in series.