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The Mask of Atreus    by A. J. Hartley order for
Mask of Atreus
by A. J. Hartley
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When the action of A. J. Hartley's riveting new thriller begins, Deborah Miller, the striking thirty-three year old assistant at Atlanta's Druid Hills Museum makes a gruesome discovery. In a small room hidden within the museum, she finds the viciously murdered body of seventy-five year old Richard Dixon.

Deborah also discovers that Dixon - Deborah's mentor, the museum director, and a reputable archeologist who had been obsessed with the Trojan War - had inexplicably hidden from view a priceless collection of ancient Mycenaean treasures within his secret chamber. A secret cache of artifacts like this simply couldn't or shouldn't exist, Deborah realizes, and suddenly she has reasons to wonder reluctantly about Dixon's unimpeachable reputation for professional integrity.

But even in the incongruous setting of a grotesquely brutal murder and the breathtakingly beautiful treasures, Deborah realizes that something else is seriously wrong when she recognizes that something quite special appears to have been stolen from one of the room's prominently placed display cases. Deborah, unsatisfied with the police inquiries and eager to find out why Dixon was murdered, begins her own investigation and soon realizes that the treasures stolen seem to have been a priceless Mycenaean death mask and - perhaps more significantly - the bones of a legendary hero thought to have existed only in ancient myth.

But Deborah needs to find answers: Why had the artifacts been hidden in that room? Who is responsible for the murder and the theft? What was the actual motive? And what really was stolen?

In a dangerous trail of clues that will take her out of Atlanta to Athens (and elsewhere in Europe), Deborah - on her way to making some startling discoveries about Dixon, the stolen treasures, and the unexpected relationship between ancient and modern history - must confront considerable difficulties, violence, and evil.

The Mask of Atreus is the kind of top-notch historical thriller that should appeal to fans of The Da Vinci Code and Michelangelo's Notebook. Fast-paced adventures, compelling characterizations, intriguing morsels of mythology, provocative historical details, some mind-blowing surprises, and - above all - a charismatic and imaginative heroine combine to make A. J. Hartley's debut novel a smashingly entertaining success.

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