The Pericles Commission

Written by Gary Corby
Review by Nancy J. Attwell

“A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud.” With this opening line, Corby promises an entertaining read, a promise that he more than adequately fulfills.

The setting is Athens, 461 BC, in the midst of the years of peace that lie between the Persian and the Peloponnesian wars. The victim is Ephialtes, the beloved statesman who only days earlier defeated the Council of the Aeropagus and brought democracy to Athens. The witness is 20-year-old Nicolaos, who is subsequently hired by the up-and-coming politician, Pericles, to investigate the murder. A beautiful virgin-priestess, Diotima, and Nicolaos’s own pesky younger brother, Socrates, both frustrate him with their attempts to help him in his investigation. Although the assassination catapults Nicolaos from the mundane life of an apprentice sculptor into the thrilling world of Athenian politics, he is acutely aware that if he fails to find the murderer before the council members reclaim control of the government, then the fledgling democracy will collapse and he will be forced to return to his previous way of life.

One does not need knowledge of classical history to enjoy this mystery because details of culture, politics and history are so deftly woven into the threads of the story that life in ancient Athens comes vividly alive. As for myself, I love this period of history and look forward to the reading more about Nicolaos and the Athenian Golden Age.