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Aristotle Detective: Murder and Mystery in Ancient Athens    by Margaret Doody order for
Aristotle Detective
by Margaret Doody
Order:  USA  Can
Arrow, 2002 (1978)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the first in a series set in old Athens, in which Aristotle acts as a Sherlock Holmes variant, applying brilliant deductive skills in support of an amateur investigator. The latter (also the narrator) is 22-year-old Stephanos, who has had to leave his studies at the Lykeion after the early death of his father left him head of the household.

Stephanos worries about his exiled cousin Philemon and hopes for an amnesty that will bring his nearest male relative home. But then the eminent Boutades is shot with a Kretan bow and arrow, and the absent Philemon accused of the foul deed. As his nearest relative, Stephanos gets the job of defending his cousin, and naturally seeks help from the man in Athens he most admires, his old teacher.

Aristotle tells Stephanos that 'the human animal exerts itself through the work of the mind - this is the best and most effective remedy against evil that mortals are given. Let your mind now enter the game.' He continues to give perceptive advice and more concrete help as the victim's wife suicides and then one of his slaves accidentally dies. But it's not all cerebral effort on the part of Stephanos. There's a vicious attack by thugs with clubs, a daring escape in disguise, and a tomb robbing adventure by night.

Though the mystery itself is ho hum, Aristotle's gems of philosophical advice and the ancient Greek context - the handling of the trial, and the cries in the agora of 'Honey, sweet Hymettos honey!' - add spice to an intriguing read.

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